Institute for Justice Appeals Dance Ban Ruling

John Kramer
John Kramer · June 6, 2007

Arlington, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter (IJ-AZ) appealed a ruling that forces Arizona entrepreneur Dale Bell to pay almost $200,000 a year in fines if he doesn’t ban dancing at his popular Country & Western steakhouse, San Tan Flat. The paperwork, filed in Pinal County Superior Court for the State of Arizona, comes in direct response to the Pinal County Board of Supervisors decision on May 16 to deny Dale’s request to postpone the fines during his appeal. On May 2, the Board ruled to uphold its dance ban on Dale and subject him to the steep financial penalties.

San Tan Flat is a popular steakhouse in Pinal County, Ariz. (located between Phoenix and Tucson), that provides live country music in its outdoor courtyard. Customers often dance to the music under the stars. County officials, employing an obscure zoning ordinance, are saying that if a customer dances, the business is instantly transformed into a “dance hall,” and dancing outdoors in a “dance hall” is strictly forbidden.

“Today, the Institute for Justice asked the courts to protect Dale’s rights,” said Jennifer Perkins, an IJ-AZ staff attorney. IJ-AZ is a public interest law firm with a history of defeating such senseless government regulation by defending economic liberty—the right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable government interference. “Pinal County’s bureaucrats have refused to protect Dale’s constitutional rights, so it is time for the court to step in as IJ puts the County’s absurd persecution of outdoor dancing on trial.”

“This business is our American Dream,” said Dale, who runs San Tan Flat with his 16-year-old son Spencer. “We spent months and thousands of dollars jumping through bureaucratic hoops to make our dream a reality, but Pinal County seems bent on making our entrepreneurial venture a nightmare.”

At Dale’s January hearing, the Board made several absurd claims, including that public parks may also qualify as dance halls and that Dale’s stage should be used for puppet and mime shows. Hearing testimony is available here.

“This issue is not just about San Tan Flat and Pinal County, but the right of all entrepreneurs who face arbitrary and abusive government power,” explained Tim Keller, executive director of IJ-AZ. Our mission at IJ-AZ is to protect individual liberties when faced with government abuse of power, and Pinal County’s actions against Dale Bell and San Tan Flat reflect a stark example of local big-government bullies menacing honest enterprise.