LeMar's Nightclub has decided that fighting Provo city over seminude dancers isn't worth the hassle.
Lamar Driggs, owner of the Center Street bar that shocked Utah County when it introduced exotic dancing last summer, instructed his attorney Monday to drop the legal challenge against Provo's ordinance banishing the dancers to the outskirts of town.Tuesday, attorney Andrew McCul-lough filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit LeMar's instigated in April.
"My client doesn't want to spend the money," McCullough said. "He thought the dancers would be a money-making proposition, but he's seen that they're just going to cost him money."
While Provo officials stopped short of calling the dismissal of the case a victory, they are obviously pleased at not having to continue the courtroom wrangling. The case began after the City Council in December passed a zoning ordinance that restricts sexually oriented businesses to an industrial area in the southeast part of town. The city ordered LeMar's to discontinue dancing by May 1.
"I'd say it came as a surprise," Assistant City Attorney David Dixon said of LeMar's motion for dismissal. "We're happy, but we weren't expecting it."
Last week, 4th District Judge Howard H. Maetani denied a motion for partial summary judgment on behalf of Le-Mar's. Combined with Maetani's earlier denial of a preliminary injunction request by LeMar's, the rejection left Driggs feeling pessimistic about his chances of ultimately prevailing.
McCullough, however, was disappointed his client decided not to continue the fight. He said that even if the nightclub lost in 4th District Court, it had a good chance of winning on appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.
"I'm not happy about it," McCullough said. "I don't like to see people win who don't believe in the First Amendment."
A community activist who picketed outside LeMar's last summer couldn't be more thrilled about Driggs' decision.
"I'm pleased that he made a good business decision that happens to benefit all of us," said Lisa Baldwin, who lives near the downtown bar. "We're pleased Provo didn't have to go through a major ordeal."
McCullough contends that the city failed to follow state law concerning an amortization period for a business operating under a non-conforming use. He believes that LeMar's should be exempt from the city's new ordinance because the nightclub had exotic dancing before the ordinance was passed.
McCullough asked Maetani to dismiss the suit without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled later. However, the attorney said, it's not likely that will happen.
"LeMar's doesn't want to do this anymore, and that's a valid decision on their part," he said. "Exotic dancers are not their thing."
Under the city's new ordinance, dancers at LeMar's have to comply with a "bikini" standard instead of stripping down to pasties. Also, the law bans alcohol from being served in adult entertainment establishments.
Exotic dancers at LeMar's actually stopped their shows several weeks ago after Maetani's denial of the preliminary injunction. At that point, Provo police advised the club to discontinue the dancing or risk being cited for a violation of the ordinance.
Despite the fact that Provo prevailed in keeping the seminude dancers off Center Street, McCullough said LeMar's has no plans to move. In fact, he said, the club's regular business of drinking and dancing - by fully clothed patrons - is burgeoning.
"Dancing goes on as usual on Friday and Saturday nights with live music," McCullough said. "I've gotten down there to dance a few times myself."