The Pierce County Council is poised to approve tougher regulations Tuesday making strip club managers culpable if dancers violate rules by performing lap dances, handling tips or soliciting prostitution.
Managers would be subject to civil and criminal penalties whether or not they knew dancers were violating the rules. The changes also would require a strip club’s interior to be clearly lighted.
The revisions would affect just one business: DreamGirls at Fox’s, located in Parkland. It is the only strip club in unincorporated Pierce County.
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.
Council member Roger Bush, R-Frederickson, said at least a majority of the council supports adopting the stricter strip club regulations. He said they don’t require any more of Fox’s than other types of businesses.
“We expect employers not to allow illegal activity on their property, and when they do, they ought to be held accountable,” Bush said.
Tim Killian, spokesman for Deja Vu, which owns Fox’s, said the strip club chain opposes the changes.
He said Deja Vu has successfully challenged two similar laws, including in Lakewood in 1999. Those measures held managers, who are club employees, responsible for the actions of dancers, who are independent contractors, Killian said.
“We feel that Pierce County is setting itself up to litigate this matter rather than taking a rational approach to solve any problems they perceive to exist,” Killian said.
Fox’s reopened in March after it was closed for illegal activity under previous ownership in 2010.
County Auditor Julie Anderson, who put forth the changes in September, said council members haven’t expressed concerns to her about the restrictions, including holding managers liable for dancers’ violations.
“We’re ready to stand up in any courtroom to defend that,” Anderson said. “We don’t accept the ownership’s legal arguments.”
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 proposal, including the tougher liability standard for managers.
Killian, the club spokesman, also objected to a change requiring lighting to be 30 lux at 30 inches above the floor as “petty” and difficult to enforce.
He noted that no one was charged or cited as a result of the Sheriff’s Department investigation.
After DreamGirls was told about the report, the strip club chain terminated its contract with the dancer who allegedly solicited prostitution, Killian said.
It also talked to management and dancers about what behavior is appropriate and not appropriate, he said.
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647
IF YOU GO
Pierce County Council decides whether to tighten strip club regulations.
When: 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Council Chambers, County-City Building, 930 Tacoma Ave. S., Room 1045, Tacoma.
More information: bit.ly/TN9J7R