Phoenix Mulls Adult Business Moratorium

PHOENIZ, Ariz. — Armed with a Planning Board measure that would restrict the opening of new adult-oriented businesses, the Phoenix City Council will vote on Friday whether to make the measure law.

Phoenix counts outspoken activists on both sides of the adult issue, which often resurfaces in fights over bans on everything from lap dances to swingers clubs.

Paul Interlandi, swinger advocate and president of Freedom Distributing, told XBiz that Phoenix is an adult battleground as often as it is a playground. “When they bust a swingers club in Phoenix,” he said, “the police alert the media first so that [the arrested] show up on the evening news.”

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon wants all adult businesses gone, at least in the downtown area targeted by the Planning Board vote.

"The image of downtown is science, research and education based and a [mix of business and resident uses] that will support that," he said. “That doesn't include adult businesses that prey on university students or make mothers and fathers have to explain what nude dancing is to their child.”

Arizona within the past few years has struck down a state proposal to ban nudity entirely as well as other stringent measures. Arizona’s HB 2297, for example, proposed that all “seminude” dancers require pasties and not touch their customers’ clothing.

Battle lines are being drawn on both sides, with religious and family-oriented groups in one corner against “lifestyle” clubs, sex workers and strip bars on the other. Arizona’s State Court of Appeals recently upheld convictions of three swing club owners despite claims that the law that convicted them was unconstitutionally vague.

Phoenix Planning Commissioner Joan Kelchner is a dissenting voice on the Board. She feels that the ruling forces adult establishments into unzoned communities and is a “knee-jerk” reaction to a fight the city had against the Palace Cabaret, which was located across from Phoenix Civic Plaza.

The Cabaret was open briefly but closed due to what its owner, Stuart Char, called a technicality. The former adult bookstore did not meet occupancy standards.

But owners of adult establishments and their supporters said there has always been widespread demand for adult businesses in Phoenix, but little government backup.

"It's not like we're outside soliciting people to come in," Jungle Cabaret owner Mark Bobka said. "It's not like we've got naked people out in front of the building. People come in because they want to come in, out of their own free will, just like going to a baseball game."