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Rancho Cordova considers ban on alcohol sales near strip clubs

The owners of Gold Club Centerfolds on Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova want to open a bar or a restaurant serving alcohol in the same building. The city recently approved a moratorium on establishments serving alcohol within 500 feet of adult entertainment.
The owners of Gold Club Centerfolds on Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova want to open a bar or a restaurant serving alcohol in the same building. The city recently approved a moratorium on establishments serving alcohol within 500 feet of adult entertainment. Sacramento Bee file

Does consuming alcohol and watching nude dancing lead to crime?

The state of California long ago decided that the combination is dangerous, which is why the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control prohibits the sale of drinks at nude clubs.

Now the city of Rancho Cordova is pondering the question, as officials consider whether to allow restaurants that serve alcohol next to two of the city’s three strip clubs.

“From our perspective, there isn’t a lot of difference between serving alcohol inside the club and serving it right next door,” Councilwoman Linda Budge said.

The City Council recently approved a moratorium on establishments serving alcohol within 500 feet of adult entertainment. The city planning director and the city attorney are researching the possibility of an ordinance that would make the ban permanent. The City Council would have to approve the ordinance.

Although Budge and other city officials say they have not made up their minds, they also make it clear they are concerned about potential problems with the city’s strip clubs. Sacramento County approved three strip clubs in the area before Rancho Cordova incorporated in 2003, and the need for local control to address such land-use decisions became a rallying cry as leaders campaigned for incorporation, they said.

Carlos Ocampo applied for a permit to build South Beach Grill next to the Pure Gold Showgirls club in a Sunrise Boulevard strip mall. The restaurant would replace a deli that did not serve liquor.

Ocampo received temporary approval in August from the ABC to serve wine and beer on site, state records show. ABC spokesman John Carr said the agency contacted the city before issuing the temporary approval and is “in communication with city officials to determine proper handling of the matter.”

The city’s Economic Development Department also received two inquiries from representatives of Gold Club Centerfolds, who want to open a bar or a restaurant serving alcohol in the same building as the club on Folsom Boulevard, said city spokeswoman Ashley Downton. Gold Club management did not return a call from The Sacramento Bee seeking comment.

City officials have said one reason for the moratorium was South Beach Grill’s plan to sell alcohol until 2 a.m. and stay open until 5 a.m. Ocampo said he has offered to close at midnight but still serve alcohol to satisfy the city.

Ocampo disputes the argument that serving alcohol at his proposed Mexican restaurant would cause any problems. He also says city and state officials initially said he would be able to open, leading him to invest more than $60,000 in the location.

The state banned nude entertainment at bars and nightclubs serving alcohol in 1970, a decision that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court two years later. In 2002, a state appeals court cited the high court’s ruling, stating that the state’s rule was based on “substantial evidence that nude performances in conjunction with the sale of liquor led not only to lewd conduct by customers inside the business premises, but also to prostitution, indecent exposure, and sexual assault in the vicinity.”

The state court put it more succinctly: “Liquor and sex are an explosive combination.”

Ocampo cites a study from Fulton County, Ga., as evidence that liquor sales and sexually oriented businesses can coexist. The study is included in more than 200 pages of studies and laws put together by the city of Rancho Cordova in support of its moratorium.

The study by the Fulton County police looked at reported crime at 12 businesses from 1995 to 1997 – six businesses that serve alcohol, and six that serve alcohol and have adult entertainment. The study found that those without adult entertainment had more police calls. But there was no statistical correlation between reported crime and whether the establishment had adult entertainment.

Budge said the city’s report shows evidence of crime increasing when liquor is served at adult businesses. The report included testimony from two university professors that businesses that offer live adult entertainment and serve alcohol “are associated with sexual assault,” including battery, exploitation and gender hate crimes.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.

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