The City Council will have the chance Tuesday to enact reasonable regulations of the two strip clubs in Scottsdale, a chance council members ignored a year and a half ago as they rushed headlong into a moral crusade that voters wisely rejected.
As the Tribune’s Brian Powell reported Sunday, council members will be presented a compromise that is the result of six months of negotiations with representatives of the two clubs. It allows strippers to perform what are called lap dances, which the clubs’ owners say are vital to their and their employees’ economic survival. The proposal requires strippers to cover certain parts of their bodies when performing such dances and mandates that patrons may not inappropriately touch them.
The city and the clubs go into Tuesday’s meeting without being in complete agreement on what constitutes inappropriateness. But what the proposed accord is designed to accomplish is what the city should have limited itself to back in 2005.
At that time, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision on a nearby club in a Maricopa County island, the Dream Palace, precipitated changes for Scottsdale’s rules over what forms of erotic dancing are permitted under the First Amendment and what license information about strippers is confidential.
Instead of making such changes, in December 2005 the council unanimously adopted a too-strict Sexually Oriented Business ordinance whose rules would have threatened the clubs’ ability to remain in operation.
The clubs gathered enough signatures to force a September 2006 referendum in which Scottsdale voters overturned the new regulations, leading to the negotiations that led to Tuesday’s proposals.
We have said before in this space that while we do not advocate the patronage of these establishments, we recognize their legal existence and their right to certain First Amendment protections. At the same time, we have also advocated reasonable operating rules so that they pose no more of a threat to the community than is posed by other establishments that serve alcohol. We do so again today.
A compromise on Tuesday would put behind Scottsdale one of its most controversial issues. It became a controversy only because City Hall overextended the properly limited role of government. It intruded into the private sector armed with little more than vague warnings about harm to community image and morals that were reminiscent of the rationalizations made to justify Prohibition.
Voters reined in their government because they rightly feared that a City Council that so easily codifies self-righteous indignation can point a finger of blame at almost any business, creating fear and distrust that pose harm to a community that is far more devastating than what is caused by lap dances.