The fight between Scottsdale and the city’s only two adult clubs intensified Tuesday night with threats of more lawsuits to come over the city’s lap dance ban.
Babe’s Cabaret and Skin Cabaret gathered enough signatures to get Proposition 401 on the ballot for voters to decide on Sept. 12. But their tactics of late have taken a sharp turn to avoid going before voters.
Seeking to avert an expensive and bitter political campaign, the clubs’ attorneys tried and failed to convince council members to accept a “compromise ordinance” to replace the one passed by the council in December.
“The referendum will be costly and divisive and will not solve the issue,” said John Weston, a Los Angeles attorney who represents the clubs. “If we lose, there will be litigation.”
Others urged the City Council to stick by its decision, arguing the city is within its legal bounds to regulate sexually oriented businesses in order to maintain high community standards.
“I see in this the sex industry targeting Scottsdale,” said Scottsdale resident John Nichols, a supporter of Proposition 401. “They see an affluent tourist base and they want their action.”
Weston and attorney Richard Hertzberg urged the City Council to approve their proposed ordinance, which Mayor Mary Manross characterized as “turning back the clock” to the 1990s.
The lap dance ban unanimously approved by the council prohibits topless dancers from being within four feet of club patrons. The proposed ordinance eliminates the distance requirement and the rule that dancers stay on a stage 18 inches off the ground.
Councilman Wayne Ecton said: “That’s no compromise . . . I think we do need voters to vote on it.” The City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the ballot measure.
Afterward, Weston said the clubs will file a second suit against the city within days.
Attorneys representing the clubs on Friday filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court objecting to Proposition 401’s ballot language, contending it is inaccurate and vague.
Weston said the next lawsuit will object to the Scottsdale Municipal Court’s standing in more than two dozen criminal misdemeanor charges against club managers and workers in August 2005 regarding ordinance violations.
Because the city court is “heavily dependent” on ordinances passed by the City Council, that court cannot objectively hear those cases, Weston said.
One attorney characterized the clubs’ tactics as a political ploy. “Their plan was to politically leverage City Council and it didn’t work,” said Peter Gentala, an attorney with the conservative Center for Arizona Policy.
In other action
The City Council unanimously:
• Approved transferring $2.4 million from the city’s capital improvement contingency fund to make up for a budget overrun on construction of baseball spring training facilities at Indian School Park.
• Approved giving $4.1 million to the Scottsdale Cultural Council for fiscal year 2006-07. The cultural council oversees performing arts, the art museum and the city’s public art program.
• Approved a combined total of $9.2 million for widening Camelback and Pima roads.