The LDS Church, through its real estate division, is suing a Salt Lake City board for allowing downtown’s Dead Goat Saloon to have a sexually oriented business license.
The suit — filed Wednesday in 3rd District Court as an appeal of a Board of Adjustment decision — says the planned strip club will harm the church’s Property Reserve Inc., an adjacent property owner with plans to redevelop Crossroads Plaza and ZCMI Center. The two malls are across the street and a block away from the Dead Goat, 119 S. West Temple at Arrow Press Square.
“I’m not surprised,” said Dead Goat owner Daniel Darger, who recently received city approval to turn his saloon into a semi-nude dance club. “There will be a full-court press until the Mormon version of Vatican City is established.”
Darger, who is also an attorney, is not a party in the suit but may get involved to protect his license. He said he is “very excited” at the prospect of battling the church, which he blames for helping change the state liquor laws that he says have made it impossible for his club to remain a blues-music venue.
Lawmakers consulted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when they changed alcohol rules in the 2003 Legislature.
Alan Sullivan, the church’s lead attorney, declined to comment.
The Souvenir Stop in ZCMI Center is also part of the suit. Owner Steve Christopher said he fears a strip club will deter tourists from shopping at his store.
The Dead Goat “is right across from the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau,” he said. “We are highly dependent on tourist traffic. We’ve already seen that one of Darger’s other businesses has been detrimental to tourism. The Blue Boutique [a lingerie shop in Arrow Press Square] causes a lot of heartburn for tourists. They don’t think it should be in Salt Lake. I agree.”
In August, Darger received preliminary approval for a sexually oriented business (SOB) license. Christopher unsuccessfully appealed that decision to the Board of Adjustment, a volunteer citizen board. The next step in the appeals process is 3rd District Court.
The LDS Church was mum on the sexually oriented business topic then. But since, it has revealed preliminary designs calling for a $500 million overhaul of the Crossroads and ZCMI blocks.
In the suit, church attorneys ask Judge Denise Lindberg to overturn the Board of Adjustment’s decision. They argue that the sexually oriented business ordinance — which prevents such businesses from opening too close to parks, historic landmarks, gateway corridors and residents — was improperly applied. The attorneys say the Dead Goat is too close to two private parks, to the historic Zion’s Bank at 101 S. Main St., to the Salt Lake Community College at 115 S. Main St., and to the condominiums at American Towers, 48 W. 300 South.
However, the city doesn’t count private green space as parks. And the condos are not technically zoned as residential.
Mayor Rocky Anderson, his political challenger Frank Pignanelli and City Council members don’t want sexually oriented businesses downtown. The council recently issued a moratorium against such businesses, though it didn’t apply it to the Dead Goat’s application.
Anderson is trying to find a way that Darger doesn’t need to open a strip club.
He has suggested that Salt Lake County expand the Salt Palace onto Arrow Press Square. The city has also talked about finding other tenants to rent out offices near the Dead Goat, Darger said. Nothing has come of the discussion so far, he said.
Darger agreed to hold off creating the strip club while the city tries to work something out. Blues bands are scheduled to play at the club this weekend and next, Darger said.
He said if the city or LDS Church “want to figure out an economic way for me to do something else, they’ll have to do that.”
“I don’t imagine they’ll give me some money and make the SOB go away. The [Arrow Press] property comes with a lease for the Dead Goat. They’d have to buy it out at a premium.”