GLENDALE — Too tacky. Over-revealing. A peep show.
Those complaints sparked city officials to investigate, and eventually shut down, a lingerie and swimwear modeling exhibition at Chuy's Restaurant & Bar in downtown Glendale.
The shows, which started in early May and ended in mid-July, featured three women in their 20s and 30s who mingled with the mostly male crowd between noon and 1:15 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. A free raffle for concert tickets was conducted and the models hugged winners from the drawing.
"The purpose of it is not to sell swimwear or lingerie," said Chuy's owner Michael C. Loftis, who has filed a new application seeking permission to resume the shows. "It's for entertainment. People like to look at good-looking women."
"A lot of them (customers) are men--obviously that's who it appeals to," Loftis said. "I don't think it would be appealing for most women any more than I would like to see Marky Mark dance."
However, some people say they felt the noontime modeling show discouraged customers from going to shops and restaurants asurrounding Chuy's at The Exchange, a business and shopping center on North Maryland Avenue. Nearby are several restaurants with outdoor dining tables and a flower shop. Passersby, including children, could also have spotted the scantily dressed models through Chuy's large windows.
"They were pushing the limits of nudity," said Glendale Police Lt. Don MacNeil, basing his statements on reports from undercover vice officers. "The show was held in public view."
Although no obscenity laws were broken, city officials found a way to put a wrap on the models by digging up the Mexican-style restaurant's live entertainment permit, which only allowed reggae and mariachi bands and karaoke performances. Police warnings about the legality of the raffle, in which models solicited ticket sales from customers, also prompted Loftis to offer the game free of charge.
Shortly after a show on July 19, two undercover officers cited Chuy's for violating its entertainment permit and told General Manager Ted Hatch to discontinue the program.
Now, the three models are out of a job and the lunchtime crowd at Chuy's has slumped.
"Business is down this week from last week," the 52-year-old Loftis said last Friday. When the show was on, "we gained 400 to 500 people a week."
Loftis could not provide exact numbers regarding the loss of patrons. He acknowledged that he neglected to submit the appropriate paperwork to amend his permit before starting the shows.
In an effort to bring the show back, Loftis has filed an application with the city clerk to renew his entertainment permit--adding "modeling of swimwear and lingerie" to the list of activities at his restaurant.
He defended the show, saying he only received three complaints about it from female customers.
"They thought that it was in poor taste and they objected to it," Loftis said. "I think that if there were a fairly substantial amount of complaints, I would seriously consider stopping it."
If the application is approved by the city's various departments, including the police, it would be the first time in Glendale history that a restaurant will be allowed to feature women modeling swimwear and lingerie, according to city clerk's records.
Sports bars in Torrance and Pasadena (Domenico's) feature similar entertainment. Fourteen food shops in Glendale have live entertainment permits, ranging from bands to disc jockeys to piano players.
The review process normally takes six weeks, City Clerk Aileen Boyle said. If rejected, the applicant has 15 days to file an appeal with the City Council, which can choose to hear the matter, set a public hearing or deny the appeal.
MacNeil, who expects to review Chuy's request this week, said he would recommend approving the permit only if the restaurant agrees to certain conditions, such as covering windows with blinds and making sure the models stay in an area away from the view of the public.
City Atty. Scott Howard declined to comment on the permit application. Howard is scheduled to meet Aug. 11 with Loftis about the misdemeanor citation, which could lead to a six-month jail sentence or a $500 fine, or both.
Rogel Aragon, owner of Courtyard Florist next door, said he has no problem with the show and believes it did not not hurt his business.
"I'm sure the owner did this to attract customers," Aragon said. "You have to do everything these days" in business. "It so happened it offended some people, and that's unfortunate."
Some residents, however, are fearful that permitting the modeling to take place could set a dangerous precedent and lower the community's standards.
"We're working very hard in the city to have nice retail outlets and very nice family-oriented types of things," said Ginger Bremberg, 67, a former mayor and City Council member.
"We've never been known for peep shows or anything like that. Glendale has a tradition of being a family town.