A second manager of a Parkland strip club has sued Pierce County, challenging a 2-year-old ordinance that imposed tougher rules on managers at adult entertainment businesses.
It’s the second complaint of its kind filed in less than a month.
Eric Forbes, a manager of DreamGirls at Fox’s, is suing on behalf of the business that owns the club after he was issued an Order to Correct notice for alleged violations reported by the Auditor’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department.
“Failure of the establishment to comply with this order,” the notice states, “may result in further enforcement,” including license suspension or revocation and fines. Forbes appealed the decision to a hearing examiner, who affirmed the notice.
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Forbes’ lawsuit states the notice violates the state constitution. It also asks the court to declare portions of the stricter management regulations unconstitutional and permanently block enforcement of the rules.
The legal battle, coming after another Fox’s manager filed a related lawsuit earlier this month, stems from several inspections that uncovered alleged misconduct at the nightclub.
According to court documents:
Representatives from the Auditor’s Office reported violations during two routine inspections last year. They alleged dancers failed to comply with rules that prohibit dancing off stage, physical contact with patrons and accepting tips.
The representatives also noted the premises were not properly illuminated. During one inspection, they said, they couldn’t see well or identify items in the club.
“The club was so dark that the representatives could not see the light meter to take readings,” the hearing examiner wrote.
The findings were in addition to five undercover sheriff’s investigations that found “a pattern of licensed dancer violations,” including soliciting lap dances, accepting tips from patrons and exposing body parts to arouse sexual desires.
In all instances, Forbes’ complaint states, he wasn’t present when the violations occurred and shouldn’t be held responsible.
In turning down Forbes’ appeal, the county’s hearing examiner stated that prices for private dances were posted and a disc jockey was authorized to announce the availability of dancers for one-on-one lap dances.
“Such actions either encourage violations ... or exhibit complete ignorance” of the regulations, the hearing examiner wrote.
The decision concluded that the “business operator is responsible for the conduct of the dancers and manager, regardless of whether he has knowledge of the alleged violations and the ability to correct them,” documents state.
“The evidence shows a lack of any enforcement whatsoever by the managers.”
Forbes’ lawsuit contends the decision was not based on “substantial evidence” but relied on rules that violate “the rights to due process of law, freedom of speech, privacy, the right to engage in a lawful occupation, and the right to equal protection of the law.”
The county toughened regulations on adult entertainment management in 2012, making managers responsible if dancers break the rules by performing lap dances, handling tips or soliciting prostitution.
The rule changes were spurred by another undercover sheriff’s investigation that found DreamGirls dancers committed several violations, including touching customers and in one instance soliciting prostitution.
At the time the new rules were passed, representatives for Fox’s argued that similar provisions holding managers liable for dancers’ actions had been found unconstitutional in two Puget Sound-area cities, including Lakewood in 1999.
Despite the threat of legal action at the time, the County Council unanimously approved the stricter rules.
The battle resurfaced March 2 when Kevin Loomis, another manager for Fox’s, filed a lawsuit challenging the suspension of his business license for the same violations alleged by the Auditor’s Office in its two inspections last year.
Auditor Julie Anderson, named as a defendant in both lawsuits along with the hearing examiner, has said she won’t comment on active litigation.
Fox’s spokesman Tim Killian couldn’t be reached Monday for comment.