The new Mediterranean restaurant Zem Han, which is located at Northborough's center, will soon feature belly dancing, approved by the Board of Selectmen at this week's meeting.
But the approval came not without some deliberation and hesitation.
To prepare for this week's Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Aaron Hutchins watched a video he was given as an example of traditional belly dancing. Though he said he ardently supports and respects the arts, it raised some issues for him.
"I watched the video we were given as an example," said Hutchins, "and I don't think i'd be eating if I was in a restaurant and this was going on. I'm concerned. Would I want my son exposed to this? I don't know if I would."
Yuri Krasnov, owner of Zem Han and a former performer, explained that belly dancing is a traditional Mediterranean art form and would complement the cultural experience in the restaurant. Belly dancing performances, he said, would happen on either a Friday or Saturday evening between 7-9 p.m.
"This has been performed for centuries," said Krasnov, "and we want to bring that kind of color to the restaurant."
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Other board members expressed similar concerns, and asked that if the entertainment were to be approved that it is tied to some restrictions and provisions, agreeing with Hutchins suggestions.
Board members Leslie Rutan and Dawn Rand asked for an approval that included posting specific time periods that belly dancing would be performed not only on the restaurant's website, but on the door of the restaurant.
"I don't want kids exposed to this," said Hutchins. "I don't think it's appropriate. Again, my comments are strictly based on what I saw on that website. I thought that dancer was inappropriately dressed. I am a big fan of the arts."
"It is no different that what kind of movie would you take your child to," said Selectman Jeff Amberson. "As long as it isn't a total surprise. I firmly believe in not trying to legislate morality. As long as it [the belly dancing performances] isn't out of the blue, I don't have an issue with it."
Krasnov agreed to make sure the public was aware of the specific times belly dancers would be performing in the restaurant, getting the word out on social media and in the doorway.
"Yes, people would stop and look when it is going on," said Krasnov. "I have been in show business for 30 years. Mediterranean dance is an expression of that region. I understand that for some folks it is not appropriate in this culture. But the United States is where people bring all their art to show and everything can be converted into an appropriate way, even for kids."
Zem Han also awaits a liquor license, which is pending.