Scottsdale’s Strip Clubs: What Might Have Been?

Scottsdale’s old hats probably remember an instance that seems nearly unthinkable now: we almost banned strip clubs. And with any potential fork in the historical road, it’s amusing to consider what might have been had the other path been taken. So with that in mind, let’s head back to a simpler time: 2001.

Before the global war on terror, former mayor Mary Manross had a vision in mind, a vision of a more family-friendly Scottsdale devoid of explicitly sexual material. Her administration proposed stricter regulations on sexually oriented businesses, which included strip clubs, adult bookstores, and similar establishments. This was nothing new, as in the 1990s she had fought to rid the city of off-track betting for horse races, but now she was taking on an entirely different animal.

She shepherded community passion and led the way towards adopting more stringent zoning laws and operational restrictions aimed at limiting the presence and influence of such businesses, essentially attempting to regulate them out of existence. The community response was swift and passionate on both sides, with residents and some businesses in favor and civil liberties groups and other businesses in opposition.

After the stricter regulations passed the clubs undertook a referendum and voters ended up overturning the hopes of Manross and the council. It was a surprise result and begs the questions: what would have happened if the clubs would have been shut down?

It’s safe to say that tourist spending in the city would have taken a hit. Currently a destination for bachelor parties, that dynamic would have diminished, save for wedding parties in their 50s and older who simply wanted a few rounds of golf and some drinks. Considering how lowered inhibitions come with that territory, there would have been a hit to tax revenue (assuming the operators are declaring all their income, which is a dubious assumption).

Perhaps with that change in dynamic, the city’s reputation would have changed into a family-friendly destination. With that, perhaps more family-friendly venues would pop up. Would Scottsdale have turned into the Orlando or Branson of the west? That’s probably a stretch, but it likely wouldn’t be the party destination that it currently is.

In a political turn, perhaps it would have led to a faster ascension for Lisa Borowsky. After all, her brother Todd operates two strip clubs in the city and has become a black sheep of the family, one who has been willing to go on social media and embarrass those around him. If he is no longer in that business, there’s a reasonable chance that she would have more political success in the city.

All we can do is speculate. That said, it’s hard to picture Scottsdale as a family-oriented destination, nor do we really want to.