Judge rules against nude dance club and upholds ‘bikini’ standard

Friday, May 29, 1998

A Utah state judge refused this week to prevent enforcement of a Provo zoning ordinance relegating all sexually oriented businesses to an industrial area of town.

LeMar's Nightclub filed a lawsuit in April, contending that the zoning law passed in December violates First Amendment free-expression rights and asking for a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the ordinance.

Not only does the new law force LeMar's to end the nude dancing or move to another area of the city, but it also implements a so-called “bikini standard”–preventing all-nude dancing and requiring more than G-strings and pasties.

The city claimed it passed the law not because of a dislike of nude dancing, but to protect the public and surrounding businesses from adverse secondary effects, such as increased crime, decreased property values and a reduction in the quality of life.

Judge Howard H. Maetini sided with the city, writing “it would be speculative for the court to find that the city was unreasonable” in relying on studies from other cities on secondary effects. Maetini wrote: “Therefore, the court is forced to assume that the presumed secondary effects are an actual threat to the public.”

The judge also rejected the argument that requiring exotic dancers to wear bikini tops violated free-expression rights. The judge wrote: “Although plaintiff makes an assertion that requiring a bikini is an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of expression, plaintiff offers nothing to support this claim. The court refuses to guess at the reasons why plaintiff thinks the bikini standard is unconstitutional.”

W. Andrew McCullough, attorney for the club, said: “The zoning ordinance is outrageously overbroad, but the judge doesn't seem to agree. The judge just took the city's word for it that this business causes adverse secondary effects even though the city refused to hear evidence from our expert about the lack of these effects.

“This bikini standard now requires dancers in clubs to wear more clothes than people on beaches,” McCullough said. “I am very unhappy with this decision.”

However, assistant city attorney David Dixon called the judge's ruling “a good decision.”

In the meantime, LeMar's has had to shut down its nightly dance features and 10 employees, dancers and security personnel have lost their jobs.

Maetini set a review hearing for June 30 and set a trial date for January 1999.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.