Rumors of a topless bar in northern Gila County has county officials scrambling to amend zoning ordinances.
"We can't keep them out, but we can regulate them," Gila County Planning Department Manager Terry Smith said.
"We are beginning to see more and more of them in the northern part of the county," he said in a memorandum to the planning commission.
Smith said he had been told there is already one bar in Star Valley that allegedly employs topless waitresses, and his office has been contacted by someone interested in buying another bar in that community and featuring semi-topless waitresses.
While Smith named no specific bars, when a bar in Star Valley was contacted, bartender Charlie Okander emphatically denied there were any topless waitresses in that community.
"Are you kidding? No way, no how. We're all way too old for that," she said.
Okander said the rumor started that the bar she works for, Mamacita's, was going to have topless waitresses when the new owner used an illustration on a flyer that was misinterpreted.
"There were these Mexican girls that looked like they were topless. They weren't," she said.
Smith said his boss, Joe Mendoza, was asked by one of the supervisors to bring the matter to the planning and zoning commission.
When told Mamacita's is not topless, Smith said, "I guess I will have to retract that statement that there are ‘more of them' and just say I have had inquiries about the regulations for establishing topless bars. We're still going forward with (amending the zoning ordinance)."
The suggested amendments would define in graphic detail "Adult Activities Facility"; restrict the location of these facilities to C3 (central commercial district) or industrial districts and regulate the distance they must be from a variety of enterprises; and require a conditional-use permit.
"That graphic language is straight out of state statute, and it has to be graphic or someone will come back at you trying to get around the regulations," Smith said.
The commission gave the planning staff the authority to look at putting something together. Smith said the staff is checking with other counties to see what regulations they have.
Some of the regulations also make it necessary for operators of adult activities facilities to obtain a permit annually and be subjected to police background checks.
Smith said the staff will work up something for publication and public hearings to address the issue. No date has been set for either publication of the amending language, or public hearings.