Judge Says People Can Dance at San Tan Flat; Trial Court Grants San Tan Flats Request for Stay of Daily Fines

John Kramer
John Kramer · October 9, 2007

Arlington, Va.—Today Pinal County Superior Court Judge William O’Neil ruled that patrons of the family-friendly San Tan Flat restaurant can kick up their heels and dance while entrepreneur Dale Bell pursues his legal case against Pinal County’s absurd ban on outdoor dancing.

“Today marked a significant victory in the Institute for Justice’s fight to preserve Dale Bell’s economic liberty—Dale Bell will now be given his day in Court, and the opportunity to vindicate his right to earn an honest living free from the county’s unreasonable actions,” declared Jennifer Perkins, staff attorney at the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter.

In September 2006, Pinal County issued a citation against Bell for allowing patrons of his country and western steakhouse to dance under the stars. The county took the ridiculous position that because Bell does not forcibly prevent his customers from dancing, his popular destination magically transforms into a “dance hall,” which must be run inside a building in Pinal County.

Before Judge O’Neil’s ruling, Bell faced the threat of daily fines of $700 per day for every day patrons danced under the stars to the live country music offered in the restaurant’s outdoor courtyard. Dale Bell requested a stay of the daily fines, which had been imposed by a county hearing officer and affirmed by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors. Without the stay, Bell’s ability to pursue his legal right to seek relief from the courts would have been jeopardized because the potential financial liability would have jeopardized the future of the business.

Judge O’Neill’s ruling assures that the character of San Tan Flat will not change. Parents and children will continue to be able to roast marsh mellows around the campfire, while grandparents and grandchildren dance the Tennessee Waltz to the live music.

“This decision is a major win for me and my ability to stand up for my constitutional rights,” explained Dale Bell. “I am thrilled that Pinal County won’t be able to impose hefty fines before a court even gets to decide if what the county bureaucrats are doing to me is wrong.”

Judge O’Neil took under advisement other issues before the court, including whether to grant Bell a new trial in front of a jury. The judge indicated he would issue his ruling as soon as possible, and this ruling will determine the next steps in Bell’s battle to preserve his constitutional rights.