FARMINGTON — Jacqueline Ritchie wants to run it by her lawyer before she's certain, but, after a quick read of the legal document on Friday, she thinks San Juan County's plans to regulate adult entertainment businesses will actually be good for businesses.
"Heck," she said, "(San Juan County's) growing — progress and all that — maybe it's time for this kind of legislation."
Ritchie, who turned 53 on Friday, owns Taboo Show Club, a pink-painted strip club on Harper's Hill in Kirtland. On Tuesday, county commissioners said they plan to soon require background checks, building setback distances and licenses for all adult entertainment businesses outside city limits.
Commissioners will vote on the ordinance in a regular meeting on May 6. If approved, the ordinance could become law 120 days later.
"To me, this is a good thing, because it would prevent somebody from coming in with a boatload of money and blowing me out of the water," Ritchie said.
The law would require adult businesses be located at least 1,000 feet from similar operations, homes, religious assemblies, libraries, cultural services, childcare centers, community centers, public parks and elementary and secondary schools, according to a draft of the ordinance.
But existing businesses, such as Ritchie's, which she's owned since April 2013, do not need to move if they don't comply, said County Deputy Attorney Doug Echols. Also, he said, new and approved businesses would be grandfathered in if a school or church opened next door.
Background checks would also be required of the business owner and all partners, members, officers and directors, according to the ordinance.
Echols said the county requires background checks of no other businesses.
Under the ordinance, roadside signs would be restricted to only the businesses' name and the following terms: adult bookstore, adult movie theater, adult novelties, adult entertainment, adult video and adult lounge, parlor or cabaret, according to the ordinance. Flashing lights would not be allowed.
New licenses would cost $250, and annual renewals, which would be mandatory, would cost $100, according to the ordinance.
Private viewing rooms would be prohibited. Explicit public displays would be banned.
Violations of the law would carry a maximum penalty of $300 and 90 days in jail, and each day of noncompliance is considered a violation, according to the ordinance.
Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield have similar laws.
"We're not interested in pushing anybody out of business," County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said.
He added, "It incorporates protection for them and us."
Inside Taboo Show Club
Taboo Show Club has two stages and four private booths draped in silver and green sequined curtains. There's also a pool table, a large VIP room that glows red and purple, mirrors, zebra-print chairs and a disco ball.
Sixty dancers are on Ritchie's roster. Five to 10 women work on the weekdays, and as many as 20 work on the weekends, Ritchie said. In a profitable night, a women can earn $500 to $700, she said.
Dancing for many mothers provides income that keeps their children from welfare, she said.
"A lot of our single moms are just thrilled to pieces to have a job like this to do for their kids," she said.
Ritchie said she employs a lot of single moms. But social workers, waitresses, convenience store attendants, teachers and emergency medical technicians have also danced for her, she said.
Taboo Show Club has been happily received among customers, Ritchie said, but this is a conservative county. Outside her club is a billboard that reads, "After you die, you will meet God."
She plans to use it to her advantage. Soon, she said, she will post a sign near it that reads, "Before you go, enjoy the show."
Regulating the businesses
Echols said the county has never complied a list of all adult businesses in unincorporated areas because it has never passed this law. But, Echols said, he believes Taboo Show Club and the adult store across the road, Something Sexy, are the only ones.
In November, commissioners indefinitely tabled proposed county-wide zoning codes that, among many changes, would have accomplished the same thing as the adult entertainment ordinance, Echols said.
Regulating the businesses through the single ordinance should not cost more than the zoning code would have, he said. The sheriff's office and code compliance officers would enforce the law, either way, he said.
The county paid consulting firms $358,000 to help write the code, according to county documents, and it took nearly four years.
Commissioner Scott Eckstein said the code was too large and confusing, and he'd rather pass specific elements — such as the adult entertainment ordinance — individually.
"We take it, and we kind of dissect it," he said. "And we pass it based on what's most pressing, most important in our community."
Also, he said, this ordinance is not an attempt to shut down adult businesses. It is an attempt to prevent them from opening in neighborhoods where their presence would solicit opposition, he said. A businesses is entitled to exist if it is legal, he said.
"There's just some things that don't mix," he said.
Joan Earnshaw, 71, agrees.
She opposed the strip club that nearly opened in 2012 off Aztec Boulevard in Flora Vista. She and others also started a petition and rallied a crowd to protest Foxtails, a strip club across from the Farmers Market in Flora Vista. The club has since closed and the county fire department later burned down the building for practice, Earnshaw said.
Earnshaw said she doesn't object to the businesses. She just thinks they are without value.
"Just good grief, how old do these guys have to get to not want to peek through the peephole to see some girl with her clothes off?" she said. "But I understand. They have a right to do that. If they want to be kinky, it's American."