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[whitespace] New ordinance regulates adult businesses

Saratoga--Saratoga's City Council has approved a new ordinance that will place tough checks on any entrepreneurs hoping to open adult businesses within the city limits.

The new ordinance will likely be read for a second time at the council's March 23 meeting, and will go into effect at the beginning of May.

The new code comes mostly in response to an individual who wanted to open a questionable business in an area near Lawrence Expressway and Prospect Road more than a year ago.

When the person filed for a business license, the city realized it didn't have sufficient checks in place to regulate such establishments.

In that case, however, the city was able to stop the bid in its tracks because the applicant was proposing to install video screens. The city argued that it constituted a "theater" and was therefore subject to a conditional-use permit. The applicant then backed away from the proposal.

The ordinance now allows the city to heavily delve into the backgrounds of the owners and employees. It allows for the city manager to review the application and check backgrounds of possible employees before approving or denying a permit to operate to the owner.

The owners will have to pay for all the background checks.

Also, if a business were to apply to show live entertainment such as dancers, both the owner and the dancers would have to supply the city with money for background checks, as well as fingerprints and current information about themselves. The kinds of activity to take place inside is also regulated by the ordinance, and will all require specific permits.

The permits, if granted, will only last one year. The regulations cover all adult businesses including theaters, bookstores, cabarets and bars.

At the March 17 City Council meeting, Community Development Director James Walgren said that the city's Public Safety Commission and the city attorney "languished" over the lengthy, 31-page addition to the city code because they weren't sure whether to make it a zoning or land-use ordinance that would have instead placed restrictions on where the businesses could be located.

"This is more than sufficient to prevent any adult businesses that may try to locate within Saratoga," he said of the new regulations.

City Attorney Mike Riback, who drafted the ordinance, agreed and said it is very similar to many other cities' codes. He called it the "model" that many already use and are finding effective in curtailing adult businesses.

The council approved of the new measure unanimously.
Steve Enders

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