$5000 A Day Fine for Dancing

Congrats Pinal County, which border phoenix to the southeast, for pushing government intrusiveness to a new level:

At the conclusion of what Pinal County officials said was the longest
code compliance hearing in the county's history, San Tan Flat owner
Dale Bell was ordered to pay an initial $5,000 fine Tuesday for
customers dancing in the open-air portion of the restaurant. He will
also be fined $5,000 for every day people dance at his restaurant
starting Feb. 17.

Bell, who does not advertise or encourage dancing at San Tan Flat,
acknowledges that people do dance on weekend nights and it's usually
parents with children or senior couples. He has even put up signs
discouraging it.

   "It's impossible to ... ensure no one breaks out in the waltz or two step," Bell said....

County Attorney Seymour Gruber said dancing outside violates a
county code because it's not happening in an enclosed area with walls
and a roof. The county wants Bell to stop the dancing, limit it to
inside only or get a special use permit which requires public input
from neighboring property owners.

We wouldn't want people dancing without wall or a roof, would we?  I mean, there is probably a 0.5% chance they could get rained on or something.  If you are thinking this is some grizzled biker joint or a shack of a place, you are wrong.  Its actually one year old and quite nice - check out the picture.  For those of you in other parts of the country, where the idea of a family honky-tonk may seem odd, this concept is very popular in Arizona.

So why is this government harassment going on?  Well I have gotten better at decoding these things, and my sense is that it started with noise complaints, which many commercial establishments get:

There have been no complaints against San Tan Flat for dancing,
but both the county and Bell have received noise complaints about the
live music. The restaurant has not been cited for noise because the
volume has been within acceptable levels.

So the county got noise complaints, and my guess is that one of the complainers had some strong political pull (or else they would never have pursued it this far).  Particularly since this is not a population-dense area, and there is little housing directly nearby (see Google satellite map, just click on satellite in the upper right to see all the surrounding, uh, dirt).  I mean it's right next to an airport, for god sakes.   Thus, wanting to satisfy what could only be a high-profile complainer, the county moved in and pulled out the rubber glove and gave the restaurant a good probing.  And, since it is impossible to be in compliance with every stupid ordinance on the books (many conflict, so that you can't be in compliance) the city found something they thought they could make stick.  The only issue I can't decode is whether they are trying to use this as a bargaining chip to get operating hour or noise level changes, or if they are using it a s a club to close the place down.  It probably depends mostly on how much juice the key complainer has who is driving this.

The good news is that the IJ is on the case.

PS-  If you really want to get pissed off, read some of the other economic liberty cases being handled right now by the IJ.  Many of them are great examples of a point I have made for years, that state licensing of professions is more about protecting the professions from competition than they are about protecting the consumer.  If you haven't seen it, George Will had a great editorial on the same topic, which includes this gem:

In New Mexico, anyone can work as an interior designer. But it
is a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in
prison, to list yourself on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages as, or
to otherwise call yourself, an "interior designer" without being
certified as such. Those who favor this censoring of truthful
commercial speech are a private group that controls, using an exam
administered by a private national organization, access to that title.

This is done in the name of "professionalization," but it really
amounts to cartelization. Persons in the business limit access by
others "” competitors "” to full participation in the business.

"¦in Las
Vegas, where almost nothing is illegal, it is illegal "”
unless you are licensed, or employed by someone licensed "” to move, in
the role of an interior designer, any piece of furniture, such as an
armoire, more than 69 inches tall. A Nevada bureaucrat says that
"placement of furniture" is an aspect of "space planning" and therefore
is regulated "” restricted to a "registered interior designer." Placing
furniture without a license? Heaven forfend.


  1. tribal elder:

    If I ask my bride to dance while we attend the aforesaid establishment, since we're the dancers, does that make us conspirators ? If a Tango and a Rhumba (or, heaven forbid a Salsa) then follow the Waltz, are we then racketeers ?

  2. BobH:

    Not that anything I do could ever be dignified by the title "dancing", but if I just sort of sway to the music a bit as I'm walking to my car, does the owner have to pay a fine?