October 4, 2005

Look, but don’t touch, in Seattle strip clubs

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Seattle, known as one of the more
tolerant and liberal U.S. cities, will require strip club
patrons to stay at least four feet away from entertainers, city
officials said on Tuesday.

Fearing a spate of new strip clubs after a judge struck
down a 17-year moratorium on new ones last month, the City
Council voted 5-4 on Monday to adopt new adult-entertainment
regulations, which also mandate brighter lighting on club
premises and ban private rooms.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels was expected to sign the bill
into law later on Tuesday, his office said.

Efforts to adopt measures discouraging strip clubs from
operating began after a federal judge ruled three weeks ago
that the city's refusal to process strip club applications
since 1988 was unconstitutional.

While other larger U.S. cities have dozens of the clubs,
according to directory listings, Seattle has only four.

Seattle citizens overwhelmingly approved a measure last
year to make marijuana offenses a "low priority" for police,
but they are uncomfortable with the possibility of strip clubs
operating in family-filled neighborhoods, said Pepper Schwartz,
a sociology professor at the University of Washington.

"This is ground zero for general liberalism," said Schwartz
, "but people's sensitivities even in liberal communities get
aroused when they hear a strip club may be opening up in their

Seattle adopted a moratorium on new strip club openings in
1988 while officials looked into their social impact on
neighborhoods. The moratorium was then extended indefinitely,
effectively banning new clubs.

Some council members objected to the restrictions. "This is
too much interference in business affairs," said Jean Godden,
who voted against the new rules. "I'm fairly liberal-minded and
I think the city should protect neighborhoods, but it shouldn't
restrain a legitimate business."

The ordinance will take effect in six months, or when the
mayor proposes new zoning regulations, whichever comes later.