Get your dancing shoes, QC ban could be lifted

The downtown core comprises 70 acres and is envisioned as a destination area focusing on pedestrian oriented, compact development integrated with specialty uses related to retail, dining, entertainment, services, residences and recreation. (Town of Queen Creek)

Queen Creek might not need Kevin Bacon to remove its dancing ban, after all.

On July 27, the Planning & Zoning Commission approved an amendment for entertainment activities associated with restaurants or bars.

The amendment would allow for entertainment activities including live or piped music, DJs, dancing, karaoke, or similar activities, as well as remove limitations on the number of entertainers.

“When you take a look at our current code, we prohibit dancing,” said Erik Swanson, town planning administrator, as he presented an amendment to allow dancing at restaurants and bars.

He said the town has received multiple inquiries as to whether music could be part of a restaurant or bars business operations.

“We just started receiving feedback from restaurant operators and owners saying ‘hey, look, we really want to do this, but your code is a little kind of out of date,’” he said.

Article 4 of the Zoning Ordinance includes text stating that “patron dancing shall be prohibited” in restaurants.

“What’s being proposed tonight is to lift that restriction entirely on whether it be indoor or outdoor dancing,” he said.

Currently, the zoning ordinance permits bars and nightclubs within the Downtown Core and certain zoning districts by right.

Businesses in mixed use zoning districts require certain conditions be met, while a conditional use permit is required in other districts.

The zoning ordinance had put limitations in each of these districts and limited music or entertainment to recorded music or one entertainer.

The new ordinance would allow dancing at restaurants or bars when conducted indoors only without a time limitation.

Properties in the commercial zoning districts would allow entertainment activities until 10 p.m. and require a conditional use permit past that time.

“We’ve not received any feedback from our general commercial retailers,” Swanson said “But that is a concern.”

Properties within the mixed-use and Town Center district would allow outdoor entertainment activities until 11 p.m. as long as they’re separated by a minimum of 300 feet from an existing single-family residential home. Anything beyond 11 p.m. would require a conditional use permit.

The Town Center area includes Queen Creek Marketplace, where a new 19,000-square-foot Dave & Buster’s is slated to open next spring, according to Vestar.

The mixed-use area includes property at the southwest corner of Ellsworth and Queen Creek Roads just south of the Costco currently under construction.

Swanson said the town plans to develop apartments, restaurants, and commercial projects that fosters the type of entertainment activity in the amendment.

“The idea behind that mixed-use designation was to have kind of the convergence of the live-work-play area,” he said.

Properties within the 70-acre Downtown Core serve as the “entertainment center” at the heart of the town.

The changes would permit outdoor entertainment activities until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

“We want to provide a little bit less stringent restrictions there just to get that nightlife environment,” Swanson said.

The zoning ordinance was originally adopted in 1999 and legal problems have come about in the area before.

In 2006, San Tan Flats Steakhouse and Saloon owner Dale Bell was cited by Pinal County Board of Supervisors claiming he violated a commercial zoning permit by “engaging in dance hall activities” outside of an enclosed space.

This turned into a legal battle that dragged on for about two years until 2008, when a judge lifted the injunction.

Swanson said his staff reached out to restaurants, bars and commercial developers in the area to get feedback on the issue.

“Quite honestly, we only received a couple of comments,” he said. “The feedback was relatively positive and it was easy enough to make the changes.”

The amendment now goes before Town Council for a public hearing and possible approval on Aug. 3.

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