Salt Lake City officials have summoned the owner of the Crazy Goat Saloon to a hearing to defend his sexually oriented business license.
And the saloon's owner says it's because city employees are feeling cowed by the LDS Church.
The city sent a letter dated April 27 to Daniel Darger, co-owner and attorney for the saloon, announcing that it would hold a hearing May 11 to address whether the license should be yanked.
The letter says the saloon violates zoning ordinances because it is too close to a now-closed coffee shop that held Protestant worship services and Bible studies, and also because part of the saloon's basement is too close to a gateway corridor. The area in question is the West Temple Gateway Corridor.
"I expected it," Darger said Wednesday. "I know who's running the show."
Representatives for both the city and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined comment.
Darger said the objections to his license weren't even technicalities that deserved debate.
"The basis for these proceedings is a recommendation from the Business Licensing Office, which is based upon an investigation and information contained in an April 26, 2004, memorandum from Larry Butcher, Zoning Administrator," says the letter, which was written by Melanie Reif, assistant city attorney.
The letter says the saloon is within 1,000 feet of a place of worship, namely Summit Ministries, which runs the Baptist Church-affiliated Main Street Coffee House at 149 S. Main. But Darger said the coffee shop has announced it would close April 30. "This will make them look even stupider," Darger said, adding the coffee shop also had not been not licensed as a place of worship but as a retail establishment.
Butcher said in his memo that although the coffee house is a retail business, "I also conclude that Summit Ministries operates a place of worship in the same structure."
The letter also says the saloon is contrary to zoning laws because "an occupied portion of the Crazy Goat basement" may be within 165 feet of a gateway corridor.
Darger insists this, too, is a bogus argument because a stage in a basement room that once was used for blues bands existed before and while he applied for the sexually oriented business license — and the city approved the license then.
Darger built a new stage for strippers that passed city inspection and changed the former Dead Goat, which was unsuccessful as a blues club, to the Crazy Goat, which is a striptease nightspot.
Darger wanted to add yet another stage for seminude dancers, but he said city officials told him that was not allowed under a moratorium on sexually oriented businesses in the downtown area. So Darger said he dusted off the old basement stage and put it to use again, mainly for private parties.
He said he doesn't see how the basement room can violate zoning laws.
"The purpose for the 165-foot rule (keeping sexually oriented businesses away from certain protected land uses) is for people driving down the street corridor, so they're not offended by signs in their face," Darger said. "The basement isn't in their face at all. It's not on the same level."
But Butcher in his memo said: "While it may be argued that the basement occupancy by the Crazy Goat Saloon would not be viewable from ground level, I do not reason that this argument precludes the enforcement of the distance separation requirement."
Butcher wrote that the gateway corridor separation requirement was intended to address all locations of a sexually oriented business, "not just on-grade entry doors or first-floor locations."
Butcher, when contacted Wednesday, referred to his memo and said he was unable to comment further because the situation was in litigation.
Alan Sullivan, attorney for Property Reserve Inc., the real-estate arm of the LDS Church, declined comment.
Darger also is unhappy that Salt Lake City petitioned 3rd District Court to stop all action in a court case between Property Reserve Inc. and the saloon until the matter can be investigated.
Property Reserve Inc. and the Souvenir Stop sued the city in 3rd District Court asking that the court overturn the city's Board of Adjustment's granting of the sexually oriented business license, saying the strip club was too close to certain protected land uses.