Singing the blues over blue laws

Utah state and local laws are really something. You can take your concealed weapon onto state university campuses, yet you cannot get a pitcher of beer brought to your table if you are alone waiting for some friends. These are the least of my concerns, as I have addressed them before. However, something in the news recently brushes the edges of sanity.

Salt Lake City has become the new century’s equivalent of “Footloose.” For those not familiar with this classic dancing movie, Kevin Bacon plays a character named Ren who moves from Chicago out west to a small town where rock music and dancing are illegal. Ren fights to change the law.

Although rock music and dancing are not illegal in our fair city, dancing the Lindy apparently has been ruled outrageous. This energetic American dance that gained popularity in the 1930s is traditionally performed from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Unfortunately for the rebellious Utah Lindy Hop Network, a self-described “organization dedicated to the promotion of Lindy Hop and other swing dances,” they are only allowed to have their 1930s style (obviously dangerous and criminal) dances until 2 a.m. as long as they are within the Salt Lake City limits. The law is intended to prevent drug use at raves.

Last year, during one of its events, its leader was arrested, forcing it this year to go out to the obviously more reasonable West Valley City for its event this last weekend.

Under this widely known and seemingly rarely enforced law (only 10 citations have been issued since 1999), Salt Lake City forbids dance halls, restaurants or private clubs from allowing people to shake the Lindy, or any other dance for that matter, between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. This law is completely outrageous and certainly something that is reminiscent of “Footloose.”

Luckily, we have a modern-day Ren in Mayor Rocky Anderson. Although many of his politics are certainly questionable, he is pushing the Salt Lake City Council to “ease up on these absurd [dance law] restrictions.” Unfortunately, today’s equivalent of the Bible-thumping “Footloose” minister times three, council members Dave Buhler, Van Turner and Carlton Christensen, voted against Rocky “Ren” Anderson’s plan in 2001 and likely will reject it again.

When the Bible-thumping Buhler was recently questioned by The Salt Lake Tribune regarding his animosity toward late-night dancing, he used the obvious cop-out of “drug problems” with allowing dances past 2 a.m.

Unfortunately, Buhler fails to understand the relationship between drugs and dancing. There isn’t one. Perhaps more people do drugs when they are at raves than when they are not at them, but this problem can be adequately addressed in the real world, rather than the seemingly imaginary one in which the council lives.

When examined logically, closing a dance party at 2 a.m. does very little in preventing crime. First and foremost, it puts people who have been dancing at private clubs out onto the street, without even the possibility of sticking around to sober up before they are out dangerously driving on the roads. Second, closing the raves early only prevents those from doing drugs between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. from partaking. The answer to the rave issue is to require more security at dances, not to put those in a drug-induced haze out onto the street earlier in a sad attempt to keep them from doing their drug of choice for six hours.

Finally, punishing everyone who wants to dance just because of a few bad apples is simply insane. This is equivalent to endangering all the students on the U campus with allowing concealed weapons just because a few bad apples go crazy because they can’t “protect themselves” in school or at church. Oh, wait, that already happened.

Perhaps if Buhler and the rest of the city council had considered Anderson’s plan back in 2001, which proposed allowing dances with sufficient security, we would be in a different situation. However, they did not, refusing to ever officially vote on the proposal.

I fail to understand how shortening hours that citizens are allowed to dance does anything to counter drug use. All that is accomplished by these and other outlandish laws is giving Salt Lake City and our great state a bad name in the national media and discourages visitors from coming out and bringing their dollars to our area.

Until our local politicians lose their insanity, which seems quite unlikely, all I have to say is, keep on dancin’, Rocky “Ren” Anderson!

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