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Washington bill would strip liquor license ban from adult entertainment venues

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(The Center Square) – A bill would strip away an existing rule under the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board prohibiting adult entertainment venues from obtaining a liquor license.

Senate Bill 6105, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, would also require those establishments provide training for workers and add certain safety requirements to ensure worker protection.

The bill was introduced several weeks before Seattle police and officials with LCB conducted inspections of several local bars suspected of engaging in “lewd conduct” not allowed on premises that sell alcohol. Although no arrests were made, the inspections have been viewed by some as tantamount to police raids.

“We are in a moment in our country’s history when members of the LGBTQ community feel under siege,” Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said on the Senate floor on Feb. 7. He added that a “sense of safety was shattered by the actions of the Liquor Control Board.”

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, told colleagues on the Senate floor that “I think it’s important to center ourselves on what we’re trying to promote, which is public safety.”

Under SB 6105, adult entertainment establishments would be allowed to get a liquor license, but if they do only individuals 21 years or older, including dancers, would be allowed to enter the premise. The bill also requires training for medical emergencies, conflict de-escalation, and ways to identify human trafficking. Keypad locks and other safety features would be required, as well.

Testifying on the bill at its Valentine’s Day public hearing in the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards, Saldana told colleagues that adult entertainment businesses have “been an unsafe workplace for many workers and only got worse during COVID.”

She added the bill’s provisions would lead to “a much safer working environment for these workers. When I look at the work that we did to support small business and independent contractors during COVID…alcohol is often the thing that allows a small business that’s doing great food or great entertainment to make their business viable. This bill…makes a real difference in their lives.”

Madison Zack-Wu with Strippers Are Workers told the committee that they want to be “free from prejudiced policing. All we want is to be well.”

Tech engineer Kasey Champion told the committee that she became an adult dancer at 18 to help her family pay their bills.

“When you love your family sometimes you’re faced with difficult decisions,” she said. “The opportunities that kept my family safe do not exist for dancers today because of legislation that criminalizes our behavior and keeps clubs barely financially able to sustain.”

Among those opposed to giving adult entertainment venues liquor licenses was Robin Miller with the Sex Trade Survivor Caucus.

“Alcohol will only do more harm,” she said. “I don’t think that there’s ever been a statement I’ve heard is that alcohol will create safety.”

SB 6105 is not scheduled for any further committee action.

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