The South Salt Lake City Council is gearing up to ban totally nude dancing in the city now that the U.S. Supreme Court has given states and local governments such authority under some circumstances.
"I was really excited about the court's decision because it gives the states and communities the right to rule on the moral values of their communities," said Council Chairman Mel Olsen. "I want to see ordinances passed that uplift the moral values of the communities. I think certain things like nude dancing are wrong, and we ought not to allow wrong things go on in our communities."A sharply divided Supreme Court Friday ruled that nude dancing does have some constitutional protection but added that states may regulate or ban it. By a 5-4 vote, the justices said an Indiana public-indecency law that bans nude dancing does not violate the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and expression.
The high court's decision raised the ire of free-speech advocates and attorneys for South Salt Lake's two locally nude dance emporiums - Paradise Modeling and American Bush. They vow to fight any action by the South Salt Lake City Council.
"That Supreme Court decision doesn't absolutely ban nudity in entertainment. It is not a clear decision," said Stephen R. Cook, attorney for Paradise, two nude modeling businesses and most of Salt Lake County's escort services.
Cook said his clients will not quietly cease business. "There are still a lot of unanswered questions," he said. "The Utah State Constitution may grant greater protection than the U.S. Supreme Court. If dancing has artistic merit and is in done in a place where people are not offended, it may be protected under the Constitution."
Calling the court's decision "complicated," Cook predicted it will ignite lawsuits nationwide "to interpret exactly what the court meant by that decision."
Olsen's ready for the challenge.
"If the Supreme Court allows us to ban nude dancing, we'll do it immediately," Olsen said.
South Salt Lake - home of several sexually oriented business - for years has enforced the most stringent of laws allowable governing nude dancing.
"We were having great success until the Supreme Court held that nude dancing was an expression of free speech," said South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis. "We haven't been able to prevent nude dancing, just regulate it and license it."
Davis said businesses that permit nude dancing are classified as "sexually oriented" and governed by a city ordinance patterned after both Salt Lake County's and Salt Lake City's ordinances.
In 1990, Salt Lake County commissioners adopted an ordinance controlling sexually oriented businesses and defining what would be allowed and what would be outlawed in unincorporated areas. In some cases, the law was more permissive than some county officials would have liked.
For example, the ordinance allows the hiring of a person to appear totally nude, provided it is done for artistic modeling purposes. The paying customer must never touch the nude person. No one under age 18 can be allowed to see the nude person. The nude person must stay at least five feet from all people.
Female dancers in places that serve alcohol still must wear small coverings over their breasts, but they can perform totally nude if alcohol isn't served.
Davis said South Salt Lake police officers visit the establishments regularly to ensure the adherence to the current regulations, which may soon be changed by the council.
Davis said the new Supreme Court ruling will be reviewed by the South Salt Lake City Council at it's regular meeting Wednesday, June 26. The meeting will be in the Council Chambers, 220 E. Morris Ave., at 7:30 p.m.
"I don't want to second guess what the council will decide, but they have never supported making nude dancing accessible," Davis said.