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Babe’s Goes on the Attack

SCOTTSDALE – The city’s strip clubs say they are ready to unleash their campaign to defeat Scottsdale’s strict new regulations governing adult businesses, rules they say would put them out of business.

They say they gave Scottsdale officials every chance to negotiate and prevent a divisive battle over Proposition 401, the Sept. 12 primary election ballot measure that would require dancers to cover themselves more and stay at least four feet from patrons.

Translation: No more lap dances at Scottsdale’s two topless clubs, Babe’s Cabaret and Skin Cabaret.advertisement

“We will have a full-fledged campaign,” said Lamar Whitmer, the two club’s political consultant. “The polling data looks very good, and we feel very confident.”

But Mayor Mary Manross, one of the most vigorous supporters of the new code, said she is content to “stay the course and allow the city to vote on this.”

The council in December unanimously approved the new ordinance, but the strip clubs got enough petition signatures to put the ordinance on hold and send the decision to Scottsdale voters.

Joel Wright, a pollster who has worked on several successful elections in Scottsdale, said his firm has completed a survey and held two focus groups polling the attitudes of residents.

Wright said he has found that only 30 percent of likely Scottsdale voters have confidence in the city’s elected leadership. Fifty percent said they had no confidence and 20 percent were neutral.

“If we have to go into campaign mode, there is a lot we know and we will be in it to win,” Wright said. “It will be bitter and it will further erode confidence in the city’s leadership.”

The clubs last week brought out established First Amendment attorneys to try to persuade the City Council to accept compromise legislation that would have avoided the referendum.

But the council unanimously agreed that what the clubs proposed was unacceptable.

Councilman Tony Nelssen said he had hoped to reach a consensus with the clubs but even he had to balk at the proposal.

“This backs me into a corner,” Nelssen said. “I do support more discussion on this issue, but this is very troubling. I had been hopeful that some sort of resolution could be found.”

Councilwoman Betty Drake said the compromise offered was not restrictive enough.

“My feeling is (the clubs) wanted to go to voters and maybe now they are having cold feet,” Drake said of the attempted compromise.

John Weston, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in First Amendment law, said if the referendum were approved, it would not end Scottsdale’s woes.

“We’re facing a referendum here that will be costly and divisive,” Weston said. “If we win, it will not resolve the issue. It will just mean the old ordinance doesn’t work. If we lose, we will litigate. It’s timely. It’s expensive. It’s uncertain. And most important, it’s unnecessary.”

Former council candidate Bill Crawford echoed the views of club supporters, saying the city was taking away the rights of long-established businesses.

“This is a train wreck. You will be held accountable for this,” Crawford told the council.

But resident John J. Nichols, speaking in support of the city, warned that the “sex industry is targeting Scottsdale” and urged the council to not “capitulate” to their demands.

Attorneys for the clubs said that even before the new ordinance, Scottsdale had made it impossible for new adult clubs to open, which should alleviate concerns about loosening the restrictions.

“The argument is a red herring,” said Richard Hertzberg, who represents Paradise Valley porn start Jenna Jameson, a part owner of Babe’s. “I’ve been trying to get adult bookstores and clubs in this city for 30 years. It can’t be done.”

Assistant City Manager Ed Gawf conceded that it would be “very difficult” for a new adult business to move into Scottsdale.

 

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