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[whitespace] City enacts tougher legislation for adult businesses

Council unanimously approves new restrictions

Sunnyvale--Members of the Sunnyvale City Council recently voted unanimously to add tougher restrictions to city policy regarding adult businesses.

Although the new policy will make it more difficult for new adult business owners to open profitable establishments in Sunnyvale, owners of the city's existing adult businesses praise City Attorney Valerie Armento and the city council for a job well done. All five of the existing businesses in the city have been "grandfathered" into the new legislation, meaning they are exempt from most of the new restrictions.

"Arguably, it benefits [the existing businesses] because it prevents other businesses from being able to compete with them," said Roger Diamond, attorney for the Brass Rail, a "bikini" bar on Persian Drive.

The new amendments, approved at the March 27 meeting, prohibit nudity in all adult businesses besides those that offered nude entertainment as of January 1, 2001. The exception for current establishments only applies as long as they don't serve alcoholic beverages. The Kit Kat Club on Arques Avenue, the only existing club in Sunnyvale that allows nude dancing, doesn't sell alcohol.

Other stipulations include minimum illumination levels inside and outside, hours of operation, stage heights, minimum distances between patrons and performers and tipping techniques.

"Direction from council was to work with existing businesses to come up with regulations that would allow them to continue to operate as they do currently," Armento said. "The intent is to fill in some gaps in the regulations we had in the books and make things clear for expectations for future businesses. We were hoping to be able to come up with uniform requirements that didn't differ between existing and future establishments."

The city officials said they believed it was important to work with the existing clubs in deciding on new legislation. In recent discussions, owners and their attorneys expressed concerns about several points in the new legislation.

For example, several owners argued the size of their clubs wouldn't allow them to meet distance requirements without losing significant seating. Because this would potentially cause large losses in revenue and make it harder for the clubs to survive, a bargain was struck and several clubs were exempted. The city allowed for several other similar concessions.

According to the report Armento gave before the city council, "The proposed amendments are not intended to result in the closure of any of the existing businesses ... Agreement has been achieved through compromise, with neither side prevailing with its point of view on all aspects of regulation."

Co-owners Matt Miller and Brad Clausen of the HipHugger Club on El Camino Real and Bill Ortin, co-owner of the Candid Club on El Camino Real and the Kit Kat Club, all attended the March 20 city council meeting to express their support of the new amendments and to commend Armento for her hard work.

However, the negotiation process wasn't entirely smooth. Though the Brass Rail doesn't currently feature topless dancers, they hoped to reserve the right if they wished to do so in the future. But council didn't grant their request.

"I don't think [the new legislation] was necessary." Diamond said. "Nothing was broken; nothing needed fixing."

"The Alcoholic Beverage Control expressly allows topless dancing," Diamond continued. "In places licensed by ABC there can be topless dancing. But what Sunnyvale has done is that it has banned topless dancing. To that extent, the city has gone beyond ABC regulations. The question is whether or not it's constitutional; that's where there could be problems."

Diamond, however, who resides in the Los Angeles area, spoke very highly of Sunnyvale and Armento and all of Northern California.

"[The city representatives] are to be commended for their professionalism and insight, he said. "It was a pleasure dealing with the city attorney. The city, itself, is one of the finest I've ever been in. I commend them for trying to be progressive. It's quite a distinction from what I deal with in other cities. I think a lot has to do that people in Northern California are more sophisticated. Politicians are going toward people they feel affect their elections; they revel in the fight. It grabs headlines and may get them votes."
Daniel Hindin

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