Utah's liquor commission is considering a new rule dealing with sexually oriented businesses that already has the owner of one such club in Park City raising concerns about its potential effect on the state's tourism industry.
"I think this is just a slap in the face of everything we're trying to do for Utah's tourism business," said Gregg Davison, owner of the Monkey Bar on Park City's Main Street. "Utah's bars and night clubs already operate under some of the most restrictive operating rules in the country and may now have to end dance entertainment as we know it."
New proposed rules would prohibit sexually oriented entertainers from mingling, lap dancing, table dancing or face dancing with bar patrons. Those entertainers are defined as any person who "performs in a sexually provocative manner" and include dancers, strippers and even patrons participating in mud wrestling or a wet T-shirt contest. In addition, a performance area must have a 3-foot high platform and 3-foot high railing.
"This would close us," Davison said.
But Earl Dorius, regulatory director for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said the proposed rule merely restates requirements already put in place for sexually oriented businesses by state and local governments.
Utah law already gives the liquor commission the authority to approve the stage used by sexually oriented entertainers, such as dancers, strippers, mud wrestlers or wet T-shirt contestants.
"It's more further explaining" what that approval entails, Dorius said of the proposed rule on "Sexually Oriented Entertainers and Stage Approvals," which was drafted at the commission's request after repeated difficulties with the Monkey Bar.
Problems between DABC and the 3-year-old Monkey Bar began early in its operation. After Park City police reported lewd dancing at the establishment in 2004, the commission forced the bar to close for 32 days and pay a fine. The commission also wanted the bar to build a raised stage with a surrounding fence. The Monkey Bar refused, so DABC revoked its liquor license. A Summit County judge, however, put that revocation on hold where it currently stands, pending the bar's appeal.
"This is definitely aimed right at the Monkey Bar," Davison said about the new proposed rule. "I don't know what the real definition of provocative dancing is, but every night club in Utah has it. That's what high school kids do."
Comparing the proposed rules to a modern-day "Footloose," Davison says the proposed rules could even ban dancing at wedding receptions held in restaurants or restrict the Jazz Girls at NBA games to individual stages with fences.
Public comment on the proposed rule is being accepted by the commission through Sept. 14. At the next meeting of the commission, set for Sept. 28, a decision will be made whether to schedule a public hearing or allow the rule to take effect.
Only nine of the state's 232 private clubs and five of the 84 beer taverns are also sexually oriented businesses, Dorius said. He said all private clubs and beer taverns in the state were mailed copies of the proposed rule, but so far, no written comments have been received.
Dorius said the commission has been asked how the rule would apply to patrons that participate in, say, mud-wrestling. While patrons can participate, he said once they do so they become entertainers subject to the same prohibitions against mingling.
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