Scottsdale may weigh in on new strip-club limits

Lesley Wright The Arizona Republic Jan. 12, 2006 12:00 AM

SCOTTSDALE - Scottsdale voters will soon have to decide whether a 4-foot "no touch" zone is too much buffer between strip club patrons and the exotic dancers who depend on their tips.

Barring any problems at the Recorder's Office, Scottsdale's new regulations for sexually oriented businesses will be wrapped into a referendum that could hit the ballot as soon as May 16.

Organizers wearing bunny outfits (Easter bunnies, that is, not Playboy bunnies) carted boxes of petitions into Scottsdale City Hall on Wednesday with about 9,500 signatures from voters demanding that the revised law be put to a public vote.

The bunnies have bounced along Scottsdale Road for a week, urging motorists to pull over and sign the petitions for what one Scottsdale councilwoman said is a "sexy issue."

Councilwoman Betty Drake added that she lived in the San Francisco Bay area for a long time and became accustomed to its Red Light district.

"I don't have serious hang-ups about these things," Drake said. "If they've got the signatures, let's put it to a vote and find out."

John Weston, attorney for Scottsdale's Skin Cabaret, put out one last call for a compromise at City Hall before the controversy moves to the polls.

"The next step is a costly campaign, which we fully expect to wage," he said. "The next step after that is the election itself, which we fully expect to win. Are we ready for an election? Absolutely. Do we want one? Absolutely not."

Scottsdale leaders did not directly address the request for a compromise late Wednesday. But they said earlier that they are ready to put their new regulations to a test.

"I'm happy to defend our S.O.B.," said Councilman Bob Littlefield, using City Hall slang for sexually oriented businesses.

Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross said that any statements would be "speculative" since organizers still have to go through a verification process to ensure that at least 3,384 of the signatures are from registered Scottsdale voters.

The owners of Scottsdale's two clubs, Skin and Babe's Cabaret, said that their decades-old businesses would be forced to shut down if the new regulations take effect March 13.

Among the law's more shocking aspects to the club owners is the mandated 4-foot buffer separating dancers from patrons. If enforced, the rule would preclude lap dances and the traditional manner of tipping dancers.

Skin's owner, Todd Borowsky, said that the rule would wipe out much of the seating in his tiny club.

Two high-profile players helped ratchet up the publicity machine for the legislation.

Jenna Jameson, an international star of adult films, bought out Babe's Cabaret last summer and announced her plans to turn it into an upscale nightclub called Club Jenna.

Scottsdale hired a consultant who has dealt with similar situations nationwide, attorney Scott Bergthold, who is allied with the Christian-based Alliance Defense Fund.

Council members said they were just trying to regulate "secondary effects" of strip clubs, such as prostitution.

But even the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce president stood up at the council meeting to defend a dues-paying member of the city's business organization.

City Clerk Carolyn Jagger will have 15 business days to review the petitions and run a sample of signatures. The Maricopa County Recorder's Office then has 10 days to verify the petitions.

Reporter Weldon Johnson contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter at lesley

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