Despite the threat of a lawsuit, the Pierce County Council unanimously approved tougher regulations Tuesday making strip club managers criminally responsible if dancers break rules by performing lap dances, handling tips or soliciting prostitution.
Managers will be subject to criminal and civil penalties regardless of whether they knew dancers were violating the rules. The changes, which will take effect Feb. 1, also require a strip clubs 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, DreamGirls at Foxs in Parkland.
An undercover investigation in September found that dancers at Foxs committed several violations including taking tips, performing lap dances, touching customers and in one instance soliciting prostitution, according to Sheriffs 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 Stan Flemming, R-University Place, said managers and owners of strip clubs have to be held accountable in one form or fashion. He said the council has a responsibility to be proactive versus reactive.
Council member Roger Bush, R-Frederickson, said there should be no need for litigation if a business is being run properly, preventing illegal activity form occurring.
Before the meeting, Council Chairwoman Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, said she was not concerned at this time about potential litigation. She said deputy prosecutor Cort OConnor felt confident legally in submitting the stricter standards for the councils approval.
OConnor has said its been too easy for managers to ignore dancers breaking the law.
After the 7-0 vote, Killian said Deja Vu will evaluate its options, including suing the county.
Its a reckless act on their part, he said.
Foxs reopened in March after it was closed for illegal activity under previous ownership in 2010.
Auditor Julie Anderson has called the new standards she put forth in September the strictest in the state.
If dancers violate regulations, managers and owners as well as dancers could be charged with misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Last month, Andersons 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 last week that she sought only to give the council other options with her second, less stringent proposal. She said shes comfortable with the original changes, including the tougher liability standard for managers.
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647