Scottsdale Puts the Heat on Topless Bars

Rhett Pardon
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Adult star Jenna Jameson’s apparent involvement with the Babes Cabaret strip club may have prompted the city to turn its attention to Scottsdale's topless bars.

On Friday afternoon, city officials decided to begin enforcing an ordinance banning lap dances and other physical contact at the city's topless bars, despite a request from the city's attorney's office to hold off on citing violators.

Such activity outlawed by the city’s sexually oriented business ordinance takes place regularly at Babes Cabaret, which serves liquor and requires dancers to wear pasties over their nipples, according to a report from a local newspaper, the East Valley Tribune.

Under the ordinance currently being enforced, if a club is convicted of three violations within 12 months, it loses its sexually oriented business license.

At post time, city officials did not confirm the number of citations issued to adult clubs, including Babes.

Last week, Scottsdale Councilman Robert W. Littlefield told XBiz that the city could have a chance to shut down Babes after it researches its legal options.

Littlefield said that his staff is researching anything relative to the Babes purchase or a renovation to “trigger a legal event.”

The city attorney’s office also has been working with an outside law firm to craft changes to the ordinance. Mayor Mary Manross told XBiz that a City Council motion will most likely be in place by October that will further restrict adult lounge owners.

"We need to enforce our ordinances that we have on the books first," she said.

With a relaunch in the fall with a new name, Babes was reportedly purchased by Jameson, husband Jay Grdina and an unidentified third partner.

So far, according to Littlefield, the adult star has yet to sign any legal papers with Scottsdale or the state relative to the club’s ownership. Manross said that a new business license is necessary if there is a change in majority ownership.

Also, under Scottsdale’s sexually oriented business ordinance, strip adult businesses must be licensed by the city, which mandates background checks for owners and managers.

Club Jenna officials did not respond to calls from XBiz.

One report said that the strip club would incorporate the ClubJenna brand and broadcast live streaming video from it.

Jameson, in a previous interview, said her goal is to improve Babes, attracting a high-end clientele of both men and women. “It will be our first Club Jenna strip club," said Jameson, who founded Scottsdale, Ariz.-based ClubJenna with her husband Jay Grdina. "Hopefully it will be the first of many to come."

Neigborhood activists argue that Jameson’s plans could be stumbling blocks to a planned revitalization of that area.

Scottsdale police have not enforced regulations banning lap dances and other types of physical contact between strippers and customers at the Scottsdale’s topless bars for two years.

Former City Attorney David Pennartz’s decided to stop prosecuting those particular violations in August 2003.

That was prompted by a then-pending lawsuit filed by Dream Palace, an all-nude Scottsdale club that thrown into question what restrictions governments can place on adult businesses.

"While this case was under review, Scottsdale’s former city attorney suspended enforcement pending direction from the federal courts," Scottsdale’s police said in a statement.

But police did not restart upholding the ordinance even after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the Dream Palace suit in September.

The decision struck down part of the county ordinance dictating how the strippers can move on stage, but left most of the regulations intact.

The 9th Circuit concluded that a regulation banning "sex acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated," would amount to a ban on nude dancing, which it called a constitutionally protected activity."