Politicos Wants Sex Out of Salt Lake City

The idea of dancers stripping in downtown Salt Lake City clubs just doesn’t jibe with city leaders’ vision of a vibrant nightlife.
So they are taking initial steps to prevent such sexually oriented businesses (SOBs) in the core of downtown.

This week, City Council members unanimously approved a temporary moratorium to prohibit SOBs, including adult bookstores, video stores, motion picture theaters and seminude dancing bars, from opening in the area roughly framed by South Temple and 900 South and 200 East to 200 West.

The stay on SOBs will last six months or until the city has evaluated their impact on and compatibility with surrounding businesses. Then it may permanently change the SOB zoning. “I’m deeply concerned,” said Councilman Eric Jergensen. “I don’t approve of this kind of business,” though he acknowledges SOB owners have First Amendment rights to operate.

While cities cannot ban SOBs, they can regulate their location, according to the City Attorney’s Office. Council members suggested the moratorium in response to plans to turn the Dead Goat Saloon, 165 S. West Temple, into a strip club. Mayor Rocky Anderson said the moratorium would apply to the Dead Goat, but City Attorney Ed Rutan said that wasn’t clear. On Monday, a citizen planning board upheld a decision to grant the Dead Goat owner an SOB license. But saloon owner Daniel Darger doesn’t yet have the license, said Edna Drake, city administrator of building services. She said Darger won’t get it until he builds a stage for the dancers.

The Dead Goat’s application has riled the business and political communities. The Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce oppose the Dead Goat proposal. So do all three major candidates for mayor. Anderson, Molonai Hola and Frank Pignanelli also all support the moratorium.

Hola held a news conference to denounce the idea of opening SOBs downtown. “We want this city to be vibrant, but not like this.” Hola said he wouldn’t allow SOBs downtown if he were mayor, though he later acknowledged the mayor may not be able to prevent SOBs since the zoning allows them.

“Our focus needs to be more housing, more culture, more traditional business opportunities downtown,” Pignanelli said. “SOBs do nothing to enhance and in all reality distract from those goals.” When the city initially denied Darger’s SOB application earlier this summer, Anderson got involved, agreeing with Darger that the city wasn’t fairly applying city zoning ordinances. But that doesn’t mean Anderson supports the idea. “I do not want SOBs in the Central Business District,” the mayor said. “It undermines the nature of what almost all of us are trying to create downtown — safety and vibrancy.”

He hopes the moratorium will allow the city to evaluate regulations that apparently require SOBs to operate as strip clubs and prevent the creation of less risqué shows. Darger said he will be forced into opening a strip club, which will be operated by the owner of Southern Exposure, instead of opening a cabaret show as seen in the movie “Chicago” because he said he must have a “stripper stage” and because of licensing requirements for dancers.

But contrary to what Darger said Monday, the city does not require stripper poles, Drake said. To justify the moratorium, the ordinance cited concerns that SOBs would increase crime, lower property values, create urban blight and harm neighboring businesses. During the moratorium, SOBs will continue to be allowed in manufacturing and general commercial districts.

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