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Uh-oh, again, 'bars wars' in Scottsdale

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Posted: Tuesday, March 27, 2007 11:00 pm

It's been interesting if at times annoying to have been following the Scottsdale City Council's aesthetic binges of the past several months. But it's got to stop. Lately, it's been criticism of an application for off-track betting and for a separate proposed event featuring lingeriewearing women playing football, both downtown. Last year, it was "too many bars" in downtown Scottsdale, and of course, the difference that requiring four feet of space between dancer and customer at a strip club instead of three feet actually makes. Well, now "bar wars" has returned. As we read this week, the issue is whether checking for identification at the door of a restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages makes it appear too barlike for City Hall. As Tuesday's Tribune reported, city officials now are questioning a bill in the Arizona Legislature, House Bill 2391. It deals with the ongoing conflict between those city conditional use permits and state liquor laws regulating establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. Owners of such establishments can find themselves caught between a city's rules and the state's. The owner of one, Salty Senorita, told a Tribune reporter he is caught between Scottsdale's desire that it not check identification of patrons at the door and the state's wish to prevent underage drinking by insisting that it does. Attorney Court Rich's clients have included several downtown Scottsdale bars and restaurants. He said Tuesday that while he sees a city's desire to control the number or locations of bars "is not a bad thing," no one should be encouraging underage drinking by telling an owner not to "card" patrons with trained personnel at the door. "Would you rather have an untrained 18-year-old waitress checking IDs at the table or a well-trained bouncer doing it at the door?" Rich asked. "If you can't card at the door, that's a scary place to be in." The bill's co-sponsor, state Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, told me Tuesday that keeping alcohol away from minors should be a more important goal than cities' desire to maintain a greater degree of local control through permits. You'd think so. But some folks at City Hall think their power to regulate, where there's no public outcry to see more regulation, is what's important. The past several months have seen significant degrees of morality and aesthetics applied to local government decision-making. There's a limited place for both, but these considerations have gone beyond limited. While discussing how Scottsdale might look to both residents and outsiders may be an enlightening academic discussion - OK, it probably isn't even that - when aesthetics or image becomes a bigger matter than some pretty serious societal concerns, then it's time to stop the carousel. We've been going around in circles for too long.

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