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New rules to hit Scottsdale adult video store

If you’ve lost track of the current score this year, the adult industry is now 5-16 in legal readings.

Scottsdale, Arizona- New adult business regulations in Scottsdale will force major changes on Zorba’s, a 34-year-old adult video store and infamous city landmark.

Private viewing of X-rated films in the store’s arcade area, which occupies roughly half of the building at Scottsdale and Thomas roads, will technically be banned as of March 13.

The mandate comes from revisions made in December to Scottsdale’s Sexually Oriented Business ordinance, which also target the city’s two strip clubs. However, the strip clubs launched a referendum drive that will put their issues before voters on the September ballot.

The referendum doesn’t apply to the video store, the city’s only adult video seller.

After the ordinance changes go into effect next month, Zorba’s has 180 days to comply, said Scottsdale City Attorney Deborah Robberson. “Because for the adult video stores there may be some physical changes required,” she said.

The new rules require store managers to have unobstructed views of the entire building, except for bathrooms, and have the space illuminated by at least a 40-watt light bulb. No “doors, curtains, walls, merchandise, display racks or other materials” can obscure any part of the business.

A sketch of Zorba’s floor plan, included in the store’s sexually oriented business license, shows most of the building would have to be overhauled to comply with the regulations.

The ordinance revisions, approved unanimously by the City Council in December, have been subjected to a great deal of public scrutiny in recent months. At Babe’s Cabaret and Skin Cabaret, the changes would ban nude dancing and restrict strippers from coming within four feet of patrons.

Skin and Babe’s owners and employees led a referendum drive that gathered more than 8,000 voter signatures, which put the issue on the September ballot.

If passed, it would repeal the nudity and distance rules, allowing strippers to continue offering lucrative lap dances. Owners of Scottsdale’s topless bars argue that if the measure fails, they would be forced out of business.

The clubs enjoy a reprieve from the ordinance until the public vote.

The video store provisions were intentionally left out of the referendum, said Todd Borowsky, Skin’s owner. “That was the lawyer’s decision. They went through the ordinance and decided what parts to refer.”

Merlyn Albright, Zorba’s owner, did not return calls for comment. Employees and managers at the video store declined to comment.

Asked if they were aware that the regulations affected Zorba’s, a male employee who declined to give his name said: “There’s a reason they’ve hired a lawyer.”

It is unclear how significantly the ordinance will affect the video store’s business. On Zorba’s voicemail, the video arcade is touted as a top attraction.

While the topless bars quickly called attention to the threat the regulations posed, Zorba’s has yet to make any public announcements.

“They were not there, they haven’t been involved,” Mayor Mary Manross said.

Councilman Jim Lane said he forgot that video stores were included in the ordinance.

Manross, a staunch proponent of the revisions, said the video store rules are necessary to prevent sexual activity at Zorba’s.

“There are many known, documented secondary impacts of those kinds of businesses, especially when you have them configurated with private booths,” she said.

In November, Scottsdale hired private investigator Kyle J. Palmer to inspect the video store. In an affidavit, Palmer documented physical evidence of likely sexual activity at Zorba’s.

Despite the evidence of violations at Zorba’s, a log of police activity during the past two years shows little trouble with the store. Three of the six times officers reported visiting Zorba’s address involved pulling over motorists near there.

The most serious investigation came after a customer suffered a fatal heart attack in the store.


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