Seattle Passes Tough Strip Club Restrictions

The City Council on Monday approved some of the strictest adult-entertainment regulations of any big city in the country, banning lap dances and the tipping of dancers in their G-strings.

The council voted 5-4 to require that dancers stay 4 feet from patrons, and that the clubs maintain at least parking-garage brightness throughout the premises. Private rooms will not be allowed and patrons will be offered a tip jar, instead dealing directly with dancers.

"For the most part, the attraction's gone," said Gil Levy (search), a lawyer for Rick's adult nightclub in Seattle. "It will make the clubs less fun."

The legislation was requested by Mayor Greg Nickels (search) and will take effect six months after he signs it. The mayor's office said the restrictions were needed to prevent a rash of cabarets from opening after a federal judge struck down the city's 17-year moratorium on new strip clubs.

Those who opposed the rules suggested zoning would be a better way to regulate strip clubs. Seattle has no zoning regulations governing adult entertainment.

Opponents also argued that the rules were unbecoming of a city that prides itself on being liberal and tolerant.

"Without being prudes, we can be prudent," said Councilman Nick Licata (search).

"For far too long, men have tried to tell women what work they can do," added Councilwoman Jean Godden (search).

In the late 1980s, concerned residents persuaded the city to impose a 180-day moratorium, to keep the number where it was while officials studied the social effects of the clubs and whether zoning regulations were needed.

Over the next two decades, the City Council repeatedly extended the moratorium and the number of cabarets in the city fell to four from seven. By contrast, Atlanta has roughly three dozen.

A man who wanted to open a club downtown sued and U.S. District Judge James Robart (search) sided with him last month, ruling the moratorium an unconstitutional restraint on free speech. The city could wind up paying the man millions of dollars in damages.