Salt Lake City officials say they are gearing up to begin enforcing an ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses.
Meanwhile, some business owners say the law, which was amended after a 3rd District judge declared it unconstitutional, is hurting legitimate sexually oriented businesses because the ordinance is overly strict.The city's Business Licensing Office is notifying affected businesses, including escort services and adult entertainment businesses, of the law's requirements and that the ordinance is in effect, Assistant City Attorney Bruce Baird said.
Additionally, the city prosecutor's office is preparing to prosecute any possible cases brought to them under the law, successfully challenged by several adult businesses who convinced Judge Leonard H. Russon the law restricted free speech.
Baird said he recently met with vice squad officials in the Salt Lake City Police Department to discuss the newly amended law.
"I am certain that the police department will make sure in enforcing the law they make good cases," Baird said.
City officials touted the ordinance as a means of curtailing prostitution, which they said some sexually oriented businesses harbor. But owners of local escort services claim they are legitimate businesses and say the law may run them out of town.
Tom Cantrell of Angels Escorts said the number of employees at his service has shrunk from 12 to five because prospective escorts can't afford to pay for the $240 license required by the law. Other sexually oriented business licenses range from $50 to $300, said the city treasurer's office.
"Going out of business may simply be a matter of time," Cantrell said.
Cantrell said he runs a legitimate business that is not a front for prostitution. The new law, intended to curtail prostitution, is instead making it difficult for people to make a living, he said.
"What the city has done is . . . discourage the working housewife, the mothers with children, who would be more than delighted to stick by the rules, and made it much more difficult for them to get a job," he said.
"If these gals were prostitutes, that $240 is nothing," he said.
Attorney Stephen Cook, who represented the adult businesses in the suit against the city, said professional escorts have been hampered by the law. Although he is satisfied with the amendments to the ordinance, license fees, penalties, and waiting periods for obtaining licenses have made business difficult.
One escort service was forced "to pull up stakes and go to another city," he said.