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Sexually oriented business regulations get a second look

Saturday, November 24, 20121381 views

 The South Salt Lake City Council approved amendments to the ordinance that regulates five local sexually oriented businesses during a meeting held Nov. 14. The new rules have been the topic of discussion during meetings leading up to the vote, and prompted business owners to attend the council meetings to voice their concerns.

The new rules are the first change to the ordinance that regulates sexually oriented businesses since 2001. City officials said the changes were meant to minimize potential negative effects of adult entertainment on the local community.

During the discussions, South Salt Lake City Deputy Attorney Paul Roberts said there haven’t been any formal infractions or penalties cited to sexually oriented business owners for many years.

“Our zoning code was really old and beginning this year, we’ve been revising the zoning code to make it more effective,” he said.

The new rules were developed and proposed through a collaborative effort between the staff of the Community Development Office, which oversees planning and zoning and business licenses, and the Attorney’s Office. In order for the rules change to take effect, the ordinance amendments had to be approved by a majority council vote.

During a council meeting held on Nov. 7, Southern X-posure owner Kent Bangerter and his area manager Phil Henderson asked that the council not make changes to the rules that regulate business closing-time hours, prohibit service of alcohol, or the proximity of dancers to patrons.

Both said they hadn’t been cited with any violations as an argument against the proposed stricter policies.

“The rules they’re trying to pass would make it hard to do business,” Henderson said.

Other local owner in attendance said a proposed increased distance from three to six feet between patrons and dancers would create infrastructure and capacity challenges. They also shared concerns about impact if alcohol were to be prohibited in the venues.

Currently, two out of five local sexually oriented businesses serve alcohol in the establishment.

Only days after the council meeting, a fatal fight that began in Southern X-posure led to the stabbing and death of an adult male on Nov. 10. A security employee of the club was also sent to the hospital in serious condition after being stabbed in the chest.

Bangerter said nothing like that had ever happened before and expressed his concern for the victim and family.

“My guy’s out of the hospital doing great. It’s sad for the family that lost their loved one,” he said.

But based on concerns over crime and negative impacts of the businesses on the community, the members of the council voted to approve increased regulations on the businesses on Nov. 14. Under the new regulations, semi-nude dancers are not allowed to touch customers.

Roberts said the goal of the ordinance change is to eliminate crime and clarify the rules.

“The main goal of the ordinance is to eliminate secondary effects. One of the problems is that they’re not always reportable as they’re not commonly witnessed,” he said. “Any confusion over [what is] allowed or not would be cleared up by the ordinance.”

The business closing times, required distance between dancers and patrons and alcohol regulations will remain the same, but could be addressed at future council meetings. 

In the meantime, lifelong South Salt Lake City resident and owner of American Bush Hal Cannon said the council had been fair with the new rules.

“The council seemed pretty reasonable,” he said.

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