Scottsdale green-lights new safety ordinance for bars, nightclubs

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After months of debate, the Scottsdale City Council on Tuesday approved a new safety ordinance for the city's bars and nightclubs.

While the new rules, which go into effect in 30 days, apply to every bar in the city, the ordinance was proposed after after a pair of stabbings, one of them fatal, at Martini Ranch.

The first stabbing happened in January. Former Arizona State University football player Tyrice Thompson was working as a bouncer at the bar. He was stabbed five times and died several days later. Ian MacDonald, the 26-year-old man accused of stabbing Thompson to death, pleaded not guilty and was released on a $75,000 cash bond.

The second incident happened in June. A man was stabbed while trying to leave the bar. He survived his injuries. Police later arrested Simon Lewis, 29, in connection with that stabbing.

While unrelated, the two stabbings taken together focused the spotlight on the brewing problem of safety in Old Town Scottsdale.

"The two incidents at Martini Ranch in the last six months, although isolated, demonstrate the need to improve safety in Scottsdale's bars and nightclubs," Mayor Jim Lane said after the second stabbing. "We are working collaboratively with our business community toward that end."

That goal in mind, the City Council proposed the creation of the Public Safety Plan Ordinance. After weeks of discussion, they voted Tuesday evening to adopt the ordinance, letting bar owners know in no uncertain terms that it's up to them to keep their patrons safe.

The Public Safety Plan Ordinance passed 5-2. Councilman Robert Littlefield and Councilman Guy Phillips both voted against the measure.

Under the new rules, certain kinds of business will be required "to file, follow and keep current a Public Safety Plan" that will be approved or denied by the city's police chief. The new Public Safety Plan Ordinance defines several types of business that will need to create a safety plan:

  • Age verification is requested for admittance;
  • Provide live entertainment;
  • Provide a DJ;
  • Provide an adult service as defined in Section 16-237;
  • A teen dance center as defined in Section 16-391;
  • Or utilize a promoter.

The newly passed ordinance also lays out requirements for staffing, as well as training and appearance of security personnel. In addition, it mandates the hiring of off-duty police officers in certain situations.

If a business fails to report a felony incident, the owner will be fined $1,000.

Finally, the ordinance gives the city the power to shut down a business should there be repeated violations or ongoing issues.

Some owners of businesses that are not entertainment related are concerned that the city won't enforce the new rules.

"I just would like the city to be held accountable," one business owner said while the issue was still being discussed. "If they're allowing these bars and restaurants and nightclubs to get these licenses to allow so many people to be in the area, something has to be done to protect the businesses that are not entertainment oriented."

While the ordinance officially goes into effect in 30 days, bar owners will have 90 days to put their safety plans together and get them approved.