Concerned residents seek restriction on nude dancing
CARRABASSETT VALLEY - Concern over a recent news story about nude dancing at a local inn has prompted some residents to look into getting something on the books to restrict such activity.
George Abbott, a former selectman, said the March 14 front page story in the Maine Sunday Telegram that details the Carrabassett Inn & Grill's Friday night strip show, among others in western Maine, got him riled up enough to see if a citizen-initiated ordinance restricting nude dancing could be passed in town.
The inn's owner Jeff Jacques brought the Augusta-based PartyDancers USA show to town in the fall of 2008 to help boost business. Every Friday night at 9:30 p.m. the restaurant is converted into a nightclub where naked girls dance around poles on platforms.
"I've been concerned with this since it started but that article really got me upset," Abbott said. "It's not what Carrabassett Valley is about."
Concerns about the nude show were first brought up at a selectmen's meeting on Nov. 10, 2008. According to the meeting's minutes Jacques told selectmen that nude dancing was taking place at the inn by professional dancers but that no other sex acts were going on. He added he always closes the window curtains and has a sign up outside that an adult show is going on to warn patrons.
Also at that meeting, Police Chief Scott Nichols informed selectmen there is no law against the dancers being totally naked, however, touching in the genital area with or without clothes on is illegal. The recent story's reporter quoted a bouncer announcing to customers that 95 percent of the dancers' bodies can be touched. Nichols said he hadn't received any complaints associated with the Friday shows.
According to the selectmen meeting minutes, Jacques indicated that "this is a short-term thing to 'keep my doors open' until business picked up (winter)," referring to the skiers who flock to Sugarloaf. Despite that short-term promise, Abbott said the shows have continued.
Jacques said today that the addition of the Friday show "has grown our business with food." So much so, he said he doesn't need the 3 1/2 hours of nude dancing anymore to stay in business, but his customers want it.
"It's filling a niche," Jacques said, adding that this is a recreational town and, in the past, people would hire nude dancing shows to be held at their camps and condos. "I brought it here and it worked," he said referring to not only saving his business but having it prosper.
Selectman Lloyd Cuttler said in the 2008 discussion he would have a problem setting moral standards for the community, but added he didn't want to see a sign at the inn on its Route 27 frontage advertising the show.
Since the story hit, Abbott said he has found a lot of support among residents for an ordinance to restrict exotic dancing. He's gathered several examples of ordinances that restrict it, in one form or another, that have been enacted by towns across the state to help craft one he hopes Carrabassett Valley voters can live with.
The towns of Vassalboro and Solon have adopted an identical "Adult Only Businesses" ordinance in which strip shows are not banned outright but no alcohol is allowed to served at the shows.
"Who'd want to go to a strip club and have a milkshake?" Abbott said. The town of Westbrook bans nudity altogether but does allow for some cleavage to be seen. Just how much cleavage is defined by the so called "nipple line." Other ordinance variations restrict below-the-waist nudity, or require dancers to be on a platform and a "no touchy feely" clause has been added.
Once he's gathered enough ordinance examples in the next week or two, Abbott wants to call public information meetings to decide which ordinance variation is best for Carrabassett Valley.
"I'm just getting the ball rolling, getting everyone involved to hash it out and do whatever the town wants," Abbott said, adding after public hearings are held he wants the issue to go to referendum vote, as opposed to a town meeting vote, so more people can be involved in the decision.
"I don't want to run the guy out of business, but I want to see this addressed," Abbott said.
Jacques said it would be a shame to enact an ordinance restricting nude dancing based on a three-hour show held once a week since it keeps his customers happy and has helped business.
"Before Abbott and his posse get an ordinance against nudity passed, I hope he talks with other business owners in town," Jacques said. "I hope he talks to me."
Anyone interested in getting involved with this issue, can call Abbott at 235-2336 or the Town Office at 235-2645.