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Board bends to belly dancing

But township clerk expresses staunch opposition to request from local restaurant

June 16, 2010 - Think a bit of belly dancing might complement your hummus and tabbouli?

Apparently, the owners of Olive Leaves Restaurant on Lapeer Road had the same idea when they requested a dance and entertainment agreement from Orion Township.

According to a memo issued by the township clerk's office, Olive Leaves met Orion Township ordinance requirements, paid a $600 application fee and signed the township's dance/entertainment agreement.

But, while she acknowledged requirements were met, Orion Township Clerk Penny Shults made her distaste for the idea clear at the board's June 7 meeting after Trustee Neal Porter motioned to grant the request.

"Just like that?" Shults asked. "We just approve it because they've asked for it? So if someone from Hooter's comes in, or someone wants pole dancing in the middle of their bar, they get it because they asked for it and signed an agreement? I don't feel it's consistent with the character of what we want in our community."

The agreement would be held in conjunction with the restaurant's 2010 Class C Liquor License, transferred after Ruby Tuesday's vacated the building.

Olive Leaves owner Abdula Abdula, who needs approval from the state Liquor Control Commission before moving forward, described the nature of his request in his in his application to the board: The addition of "tasteful dinner music and entertainment with dancing consistent with community standards of common decency and good morals."

And no nudity, partial nudity or near nudity, according to the application.

But Shults wasn't buying it.

"The family values and moral standards in our community are outstanding," she said. "(The board) just signed a resolution stating we will do what we can to prevent sexual abuse and physical abuse in our community. Are we doing that? This is very seductive dancing."

Shults also noted she had a conversation with Abdula, who told her "Troy wouldn't allow it, Rochester wouldn't allow it."

But the agreement is clear, with numerous conditions, Porter pointed out.

While Abdula did not attend the meeting, Porter said he thought it was prudent for the board to move on the issue.

"I think we should go ahead and take action on it," Porter said. "That way we will have a chance, if the Liquor Control Commission decides to go ahead and approve it, this will be in effect because the petitioner's already signed it, and we will have some input on what happens."

Township attorney Dan Kelly pointed out that if the LLC acted first, the township could not add language to the state's requirements.

Trustee Mark Crane supported Porter's motion, noting, to his knowledge, there's never been a vote in Orion Township or Oakland County on belly dancing.

"It ties in with the nature of the restaurant's's business," he said. "They signed an agreement that preserves the public health and safety of the public. I can't see we have any legal basis to deny the request."

The application asks for past record of license, including violations and police contacts, plans for dealing with and avoiding nuisances and neighborhood problems created by permit, proposed changes in operation, type of dance/entertainment proposed and plans for addressing potential increased parking.

The motion passed 5-2, with Shults and Trustee JoAnn Van Tassel dissenting.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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