View Full Version : Lawyers @#$%$#?

01-07-2008, 11:32 AM
Well after last years ordeals with the cities. I am wondering if I should use a lawyer to get the city to allow my haunt. Cities are paid to say "NO" and I have not been able to get them to say yes but I know there are loopholes because other haunts have gotten in.

So if I should go to a lawyer for help, what type of lawyer would work in this situation?

How often do you you guys use a lawyer for a third party?

Jim- I have just opened a can of worms with your name on it for jokes. Insert as many lawyer jokes as you would like.


Howie Slobber Erlich
01-07-2008, 11:58 AM
Are you sure that you want to really get a lawyer involved? Can't you find a close city that is a little more haunt friendly?

If you go the legal route you may have battles all the way through the whole project. If you piss off the city they will make it very hard for you to open. They will not let you slide on anything. You will be made to follow all city, county, state and probably national rules and regulations.

Also, do you have enough money to go all the way with a lawyer? They will want a retainer, probably $2000-$5000 just to get started. Don't forget that the city has lawyers on staff with lot's of experience with these types of matters. If they really don't want you there than most likely they will find ways and reasons not to let you open no matter what.

It's up to you. If you have a location that is perfect and your problems with the city are not to huge than it may be worth it. You may be better off just trying to find a different location.

Just my opinion,

Howie "Slobber" Erlich
Deadly Intentions Haunted House

damon carson
01-07-2008, 06:30 PM
Try working like with a local charity. See if they can help you get a building through the city. Donate part of your profits to there organization. That would be better than resorting to a lawyer. Thats just gonna come off negative. See what you can do beyond codes to work with your firemarshal ect. There are ways other than resorting to lawyers. Hopefully!

01-08-2008, 12:13 PM
I agree that a lawyer would just look defensive to a city official.

I have 4 locations currently under a tentative agreement by the owners to allow us to move in. I just want to make sure that I cover my butt when it comes to making sure that the city does not walk all over me like they did last year. Every city I talked to said "NO" way to operate in their city. Even though there has been previous haunts in their city in the past. They have to find a a way to say no and they are paid to do so.

So my whole reason of bringing in a lawyer was to hire someone to say the right things to the city to get us in the front door. The firemarshall is a different beast to wranggle but just getting the zoning fools to agree is the first step. Who would you all suggest I go to for help.


01-10-2008, 12:10 PM
Is there any way for you to operate outside of the city limits? There are fewer restrictions if you go rural and I believe it is cheaper.

01-10-2008, 01:45 PM
Get just outside the city limits.

County governments are almost always easier to deal with.

A slightly remote location is cheaper and adds atmosphere too.

Jim Warfield
01-10-2008, 08:44 PM
A "Remote Location"? Is that where dead remotes go for burial?
I worry that mine died and slipped away then a week later it reappears (after those pesky Ufo guys bring it back?)

01-10-2008, 10:13 PM
I have polled hundreds of people during my research for the haunt and the minute I am out of the cities' limit. no one will come. Here in Salt Lake, the cities are all together. The minute you say rural that means 45 minutes into the desert. The city is the only place that I can open. Its kind of like being in SanDiego and telling everyone that the haunt is in Tijuana, Mexico. Trust me very few would attend. I just want to make sure that I cover my grounds before I talk to them.... Even pointers on what to say is all that I need.


Doug Kelley
01-11-2008, 10:39 PM
My wife's an attorney and I usually say that people don't use them enough. They can help with a lot of things but not this. What would they do, sue the city to force them to allow you to open? Not likely.

Build a relationship with your community government instead.

01-14-2008, 03:17 PM
I understand how the Fire Marshall or building inspector can give you a hassle, but how does the City keep you from opening....what excuse do they use....

01-14-2008, 03:25 PM
The fire and building inspectors work for the county or city. The city/county issues the permits which lead to inspections. If the city/county does not want to issue a permit there is not much you can do. Fighting them would be an exercise in futility.

01-14-2008, 10:15 PM
Everytime that I have worked with a city, I have to look into zoning for this type of venue. First off I check to see if Entertainment or Indoor Entertainment is listed within the zones permitted uses. But it could also be considered Indoor Recreation. So which one do I go to the city to see if it is allowed? Each city does not have a specific zoning code for haunted attractions. If I go and say it is Indoor Recreation then they have their own mindset what business would fall into that category. If I go into Indoor Entertainment then they would do the like wise. Some cities will put us as a traveling carnival, others would put us in the same category as a flea market. It is impossible for me to know exactly which words to use so the city is more tied to there own code books to allow the haunt to operate. hence the reason that I have started this thread. I have 4 or 5 locations currently that I have current agreements with the owners for operation. but this happened last year. Everytime i went to the city with the idea they would say " Wow I am not sure where to categorize that type of business, I would say since you are only open for 45 days that you would be in the same type of classification as a carnival which means within our codes, that means you can only be open for 10 consecutive days."

Well, I need help with someone telling me to go to the city and talking them into allowing haunted houses to be within a permitted use for the zone. I do not plan to sue them and get on their bad side, They just need to have no reason to say NO.

I could care less about hiring a lawyer, (I don't need those type of friends because they won't follow me to heaven :) But I do need help with someone that can work the system better then me.

01-18-2008, 11:47 PM
I had to use a lawyer last year ... don't do it!!! Does nothing but eat your profits up.

Move to a different city if you can. Not really an option for me since we own. We have our license this year only because another city supported us and put us in their travel brochure.

If that doesn't work .... good black mail :p (i kid!!)

Oh and Greg ... cities can be worse then fire marshalls. I love my inspectors, hate my city.

01-19-2008, 01:46 PM
I most definitely agree with the posts about working with a non-profit group, which you would give a portion of your proceeds to. While that would come out of your profit, it could make the difference in whether you open this year or not.

It makes the whole process easier, from the permit to the inspections. The media is also more inclined to give you discounts and freebies. Many people also might buy tickets just to support the group who might not have otherwise gone.

01-19-2008, 07:55 PM
I guess I don't understand why the city would not want a Hanted attraction.....what is the down side for them

01-20-2008, 10:16 PM

There are lots of reasons why they say no. 1- they don't know any other words. 2- Haunted attractions attract thousands of people which can be a traffic nightmare 3- Haunted attractions usually attract mainly teenagers which cause mischief 4- They are open late and can add to the noise level if within a thousand yards of a home 5- Some very large haunts in my city that use to travel from location to location every year, made such a nightmare to the city that they have forever tainted the industry and have made it close to impossible to open one up.

There are more friendly cities but I was just feeling the temperature if you know what I mean. I have 4 locations right now and want very badly to not have a repeat of last year.


01-20-2008, 10:25 PM
I think that last one says it all - guilt by association. All the more reason to join forces with a non-profit. Then the city will look at it as supporting the group, which just happens to want to run a haunted house. You by yourself, on the other hand, would be one of "them" going in with a haunted house looking for approval.

01-21-2008, 11:32 AM
I guess since I have not gotton as far as dealing with the city, I am still confused as to what legal grounds they use to can keep you from opening....I think of the strip joints that open even though the city doesn't want them....there has to be a law or regulation that they use to prevent you from opening.....just not wanting you isn't good enough (I realize that they can make your life difficult). What is it that you need from them that they won't give you?

01-21-2008, 12:10 PM
if there is no actual classification in their code book or zoning code then they can choose where they put you. Like the examples I had mentioned before, if you consider yourself "indoor Recreation" they may consider you "High Density Entertainment" which they will say will not work for the building site that I had requested. If the city does not have a classification for your intended business then they will put you in any one they want.

Next, Because it is not a retail store and would be considered an "Attraction" they can classify it as temporary business Carnival which is only allowed to operate for select days. They have the power if there is any loop holes!

As for the strip clubs opening? There is a distinct classification for that. "Sexually Oriented Business" They do have guidlines and their own classification. Although the cities hate them, they have others clubs that have paved the way for them. There needed to be enough of them and a history of them before the city will create a classification.

As for haunts here. There is only two cities that are really haunt friendly, as far as I can tell because they have haunts currently. But the sites that I have connections to are in cities that are a bit less knowledgable, therefore they could very well tell me to go to !@#$%^& when I try to submit for licensure. The whole point to this thread is to find out if there is either a lawyer or a consultant or pimp or anyone that understands zoning better then me that could help the city understand what classification I should be in. I understand the point of charity. It doesn't work with these people, I have joined with a charity. Still a NO. I just don't want to waste another 6 months with cities if I can just find someone under a grand that would help the city approve me.

The more I realize it, the more I know that I am screwed. I will just have to battle it out to each and every city until I succeed.


01-21-2008, 01:50 PM
Ok that makes sense.....sorry you are having so much trouble......

01-23-2008, 11:03 AM
I guess I don't understand why the city would not want a Hanted attraction.....what is the down side for them

For our city the official ruling was "teenagers congreate together and increase the crime rate" too bad because we've never had problems with teens, just adults. Drunk ones, and we don't serve alchol so I don't see why we can be held accountable for that. But they blame us, even during month haunted houses are not open.

Until last year, they worked with us. This year with new staff in the city I hope things will be better this year.

01-23-2008, 11:33 AM
Remember strip clubs are protected under law, haunted houses are not. Gotta love the court system. :p

My city tried to force me in as a spook alley under their definition of one. "SPOOK ALLEY: Any amusement hall where displays or structures depict scenes of horror, violence or the unusual for entertainment of the public for a fee. "

I so laughed at this definition! Because it applies to movies, theater plays (Shakespeare is screwed), and of course haunted houses, spook alleys and the likes.