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Pierce County: Council rules committee moves forward with proposal seeking new strip club regulations

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Nov. 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
November 5, 2012 4:25 pm

A proposal to beef up rules for strip clubs in unincorporated Pierce County is still dancing.

The Pierce County Council’s Rules and Operations Committee on Monday unanimously advanced to the full council a measure that, among other things, calls to increase licensing fees and ramp up lighting requirements for adult entertainment nightspots.

But the committee opted not to act on a recommended amendment that would loosen language in the measure that aims to hold strip club managers liable for dancers who break the rules.

Councilman Rick Talbert suggested the amendment is best left for all council members to consider.

“I would prefer to allow that conversation to take place with the entire council,” said Talbert, before successfully moving a “do-pass” recommendation for the original proposal.

New developments related to the strip club measure have quickly emerged in recent days, Talbert noted. That includes a sting by undercover sheriff’s deputies that allegedly found five strippers violated various regulations while performing recently at DreamGirls at Fox’s in Parkland. Talbert said he hasn’t had a chance yet to read the sheriff’s report, which was posted online briefly on Friday.

A final council hearing on the proposal has yet to be scheduled.

As initially written, the measure calls to subject strip club managers to civil and criminal penalties if dancers violate rules that outlaw lap dances, touching customers, handling tips or soliciting prostitution. The managers could be held liable whether or not they knew the dancers were breaking the rules.

Auditor Julie Anderson, whose office handles strip club licenses, has said the measure would be the strictest in the state.

But after representatives for DreamGirls at Fox’s — the only strip club now operating in unincorporated Pierce County — claimed the measure’s liability provision was unconstitutional, Anderson’s office backed off amid concerns about legal challenges.

Anderson instead recommended changing proposed language so that club managers would be held liable only if they “knowingly permit” dancers to break rules.

Tim Killian, a spokesman for DreamGirls, was the lone person to address the committee about the measure Monday. He told members none of the regulatory changes are necessary.

“We feel we’re being unfairly painted with the same brush due to the previous owner,” Killian said.

He added DreamGirls has “strong constitutional concerns” with the measure’s liability clause and has successfully challenged similar measures.

Fox’s, the longtime exotic dancing venue, was shut down in 2010 after three associates of venerable Seattle strip club boss Frank Colacurcio pleaded guilty to racketeering and prostitution at the Parkland club, as well as others in Seattle, Shoreline and Everett.

The strip club reopened as “DreamGirls at Fox’s” in March as part of the Déjà vu chain.

Killian said the club’s new ownership – unlike its past one – is willing to work with authorities under existing laws to address inappropriate behavior.

“We don’t believe we’ll operate the same way,” he said.

But citing the five dancers who allegedly were caught violating rules during the recent sting, Committee Chair Joyce McDonald wondered if anything really is different at the club.

Killian responded none of the allegations led to criminal charges. He added the club terminated one of the dancers who allegedly solicited sex.

“It seemed like an investigation that was politically motivated to support this (proposal) that was done at the auditor’s behest,” he said later.

Anderson, who attended Monday’s hearing but didn’t speak, said afterwards she is pleased the full council will examine the original measure.

She added the sheriff’s department sting now provides a “baseline” for behavior in the club, regardless if the new owners contend it is different.

To Killian’s comments the club is willing to work with law enforcement to address bad behavior, Anderson added:  “I don’t want appropriate reactions. I want to make sure the behavior doesn’t’ happen in the first place.”

 

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