A manager at a Parkland strip club is challenging a two-year-old county ordinance that imposed tougher rules on strip club managers, claiming his business license was suspended without “substantial evidence” to support the decision.
The lawsuit, which names the county’s auditor and hearing examiner as defendants, stems from a battle with the county over liability rules for managers at adult entertainment businesses.
Kevin Loomis, a manager of DreamGirls at Fox’s, filed the complaint in Pierce County Superior Court last week. It states the Pierce County Auditor’s Office conducted two compliance inspections at the nightclub last year.
During both visits, inspectors observed dancers violate rules that prohibit dancing off stage, physical contact with patrons and accepting tips from patrons, according to the complaint. It also states the club didn’t comply with lighting requirements.
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Loomis, who was in charge of the club during both inspections, had his manager’s license suspended for 30 days afterward. Managers are accountable for violations by dancers after stricter rules were approved by the Pierce County Council in 2012.
When Loomis appealed the auditor’s decision, the county hearing examiner upheld the suspension, despite the manager’s objections that he shouldn’t be “strictly liable” for actions out of his control.
“(Loomis) was busy assisting inspectors with their inspection and was not able to control the conduct of the dancers and has no control over the level of illumination in the business,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit, filed Monday, contends the hearing examiner upheld the suspension by relying on an unconstitutional ordinance.
It claims the regulation requiring a manager to ensure all dancers and operations meet county requirements violates Loomis’ personal rights as well as his rights to free speech outlined in the state constitution.
The complaint calls for the suspension of Loomis’ license to be reversed and for portions of the county code regulating managers’ liability to be deemed unconstitutional. It also seeks an undisclosed reward for relief.
Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said she won’t comment on active litigation. She said in an email Thursday that the license suspension is on hold until the court issues its decision.
Tim Killian, a spokesman for the nightclub, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
DreamGirls at Fox’s is the only strip club in unincorporated Pierce County.
The county toughened regulations on adult entertainment management in December 2012, making managers criminally responsible if dancers break rules by performing lap dances, handling tips or soliciting prostitution.
Those rule changes were spurred by an undercover investigation by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department that found dancers at DreamGirls 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, by three courts.
Despite the threat of legal action at the time, the County Council unanimously approved the stricter rules.