Today’s A+ Award goes to Dale Bell and his son Spencer.
Their story really does sound like a sequel to the movie Footloose. Do you remember the movie? It seems that the small-town officials in Dale’s town tried to shut down his “saloon” by threatening him with an antiquated ban on outdoor dance halls.
In August, Dale and Spencer finally triumphed in his fight against a citation accusing the Arizona restaurateur of violating a 1962 Pinal County zoning ordinance by allowing patrons to swing their hips in the open-air courtyard at his Queen Creek, Arizona, venue, named San Tan Flat Saloon and Grill.
Arizona Superior Court Judge William O’Neil overturned the local government’s injunction, which had threatened to fine Bell $700 for every day that the restaurant continued to create a nightclub-type atmosphere in its outdoor area. According to court documents, San Tan Flats would be considered in violation of its commercial zoning permit if its owners did not physically restrict patrons from dancing. (The local government had graciously said that if Mr. Bell wanted to use his restaurant’s small stage for mime and puppet shows, that would be fine. Just not dancing.)
Dale Bell, 58, co-founded San Tan Flat in November 2005 with his son Spencer, now a 17-year-old senior at Arizona State University. The Western-themed family restaurant serves 3,000 to 5,000 customers a week and plays recorded and live music.
Three months after San Tan Flat’s opening day, the county began receiving noise complaints. The sheriff's deputies tested the sound levels multiple times, but never found the saloon to be in violation of the county’s noise ordinance.
But Bell claims that the county continued to come down hard on his business, sending officials to inspect everything from San Tan Flat’s health-code compliance to its firewood stacks. “They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us,” Bell said.
Bell lost his first two rounds of legal fighting: The citation was upheld first by a county hearing officer, then by the local Board of Supervisors. But in August, a state judge sided with Bell. The county does not plan to appeal.
Well, I’m not much for dancing or going to saloons. Never been very good at dancing personally. However, I have had a few run ins with city hall and local government officials who want to use what little power they actually have to make life miserable for the rest of us. So often, I’ve come away with the attitude of “Why even try to fight city hall! After all, they are always going to win in the end!” Well, in this case, they didn’t win! Strike one up for the small guy!
So, Dale and Spencer Bell, today’s A+ Award goes to two people who fought the law and won! Way to stand up. Way to stand up for what you believe to be right and fair! Now, I just hope the local government folks will leave you the heck alone!