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City Could Repeal Regulations on Bingo, Dance Halls

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By Jonathan Friedman

May 9, 2014 -- Regulations tackling issues such as who can host Bingo games and whether dance halls can feature “suggestive or unusual dancing” could soon be removed from the Santa Monica Municipal Code.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider eliminating various regulations and business permit requirements City staff determined do not serve a public benefit or could be addressed through other laws.

The dance hall regulations adopted in 1952 prohibit “marathon dancing contests, lewd, suggestive or unusual dancing, enclosures within the dance hall and the wearing of masks or costumes,” among other features, according to a staff report. The report says records dating back to 1996 show no dance hall permit has ever been issued, and the regulations “achieve no law enforcement need or clear public benefit.”

The Bingo regulations went into effect in 1977, and require game hosts to be nonprofit organizations that maintain a $5,000 surety bond. Participants cannot be under age 18 and alcohol as well as admission fees are prohibited at the events. As with dance halls, records dating back to 1996 show no issuance of a Bingo permit.

“The regulations are not actively enforced and achieve no law enforcement need or clear benefit,” the staff report says.

Also proposed for removal from the municipal code is a requirement for the Police Department “to conduct an inventory of all items [featured at auctions] and to ascertain the truthfulness of the applicant with regards to the items being sold” as well as a rule forcing businesses planning liquidation and “going out of business” sales to pay a fee and provide the city with “copies of all advertisements, an inventory of merchandise to be sold and the price for which each item is to be sold.”

Regarding the liquidation sale regulation, the staff report says, “The requirement to obtain this permit is not actively enforced; the regulations create a burden on Police Department resources that are not consistent with its priorities, as well as a regulatory bar and financial cost upon the business, without serving any specific public safety objective or measurable public benefit.”

City staff has also recommended several Police Department permits no longer be required, including those for bathhouses, boxing, auto wrecking, carnival merchandise sales, herb doctors, fortune telling, peddling, shooting galleries and matchmaking services. No permits were issued this fiscal year in several of these categories. Operators in these fields will still have to obtain regular business licenses and pay business license taxes.

The staff report says the purpose of police permits is to control certain business activities with an ultimate objective to reduce crime. But, “Upon review of these requirements, staff has determined that most of these permits do not provide the Police Department with any additional tools to prevent crime or conduct investigations; however, the requirement to obtain a police permit does place an administrative burden on the Police Department and a financial cost on businesses.”

If the majority of the City Council accepts the staff recommendation, the removal of the regulations and permit requirements would go into effect July 1.

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