Despite the threat of a lawsuit, the Pierce County Council unanimously approved tougher regulations today making strip club managers criminally responsible if dancers break rules by performing lap dances, handling tips or soliciting prostitution.
Managers will be subject to both criminal and civil penalties whether or not they knew dancers were violating the rules. The changes, which will take effect Feb. 1, also require a strip club’s interior to be clearly lighted.
The council beefed up the regulations despite objections from the spokesman for the one club they affect. The only strip club in unincorporated Pierce County is DreamGirls at Fox’s in Parkland.
An undercover investigation in September found that dancers at Fox’s committed several violations including taking tips, performing lap dances, touching customers and in one instance soliciting prostitution, according to Sheriff’s Department reports.
Tim Killian, spokesman for Deja Vu, which owns DreamGirls, said similar provisions have been found unconstitutional in two Puget Sound-area cities, including Lakewood in 1999, by three courts. Those measures held managers, who are club employees, responsible for the actions of dancers, who are independent contractors, Killian said.
“Enacting this ordinance will simply cause the county to spend more money and resources litigating laws that have already lost three times,” Killian told the council.
Council member Roger Bush, R-Frederickson, said there shouldn’t be any need for legal action if a business is being run properly.
Before the meeting, Council Chairwoman Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, said she was not concerned “at this time” about potential litigation on the regulations. She said deputy prosecutor Cort O’Connor felt confident legally in submitting the stricter standards for the council’s approval.
O’Connor has said it’s been too easy for managers to turn a blind eye to dancers breaking the law.
After the 7-0 vote, Killian said Deja Vu will evaluate it options, including suing the county.
“It’s a reckless act on their part,” Killian said.
Auditor Julie Anderson has called the new standards that she put forth in September the strictest in the state.
Last month, Anderson’s office recommended loosening its original proposal by holding club managers criminally responsible for dancers behavior only if managers “knowingly permit” a violation. Anderson acknowledged then that the original proposal could be challenged – perhaps successfully – in court.
But Anderson said Thursday that she only sought to give the council other options with her second, less stringent proposal. She said she’s comfortable with the original changes, including the tougher liability standard for managers.
Fox’s reopened in March after it was closed for illegal activity under previous ownership in 2010.