Published May 10, 2007
New York's strippers may soon have a real license to thrill.
State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, proposed legislation Monday which would require the state's exotic dancers to obtain a permit to ply their trade or face a fine.
The "Dance Performer Registration Act" would create a database of the Empire State's exotic dancers. To bare it all, each stripper would have to register — under their real name — with the state's Labor Department every three years. Anyone caught shimmying without a permit would be fined — $20 for the first offense and $50 for every offense thereafter.
But the proposed law isn't sitting well with the state's strip clubs, which would be required to obtain a certificate to employ licensed dancers under the legislation or face fines of $1,000 or more.
"This is an example of big government trying to put their hands in the dancers' G-strings," said Lonnie Hanover, the spokesman for the Scores chain of strip clubs. "And everyone knows there's no touching — that's not allowed."
Scores, which has seven clubs nationwide, says the bill isn't necessary.
"Full-time dancers at scores earn six-figure incomes," Hanover said. "Most of our performers are paying their way through college and there's a waiting list of women who want to become dancers at Scores."
Molly, a 28-year-old who has danced on and off for a decade, said the law has its pros and cons.
"It is good that it will quit underage girls from dancing," she said. "You don't want anybody too young to be wrapped up into that industry, but I can guarantee you, most girls won't be too happy about it."
She said the registry would blow the lid off of dancers' finances.
"I don't really like it, you know what I mean," Molly said. "When you're a dancer you're tax free, you're not really registered — they'd have proof of your income."
Within the dark confines of a Times Square gentleman's club, three-year industry veteran "Rebecca" (she refused to give her real name) didn't think the proposal would work in a business where women come and go as quickly as their customers.
She wondered Thursday how exactly the state planned to issue the permits, not to mention where the gyrating girls would put them.
"Like [when] we go for a driver's test, we've got to read the book, we've got to take the test," Rebecca said. "What test are you going to take to get a permit?"
An application, Ortiz said, is all that would be required.
The real sticky issue, Rebecca said, would be the provision that required the dancers to give the state their real name.
"There's a lot of people who are not legal," she said.
Those are the individuals Ortiz is hoping to protect.
"In order for us to end the on-the-ground industry of human trafficking, this is the first step in the right direction to bring the invisible to be visible," Ortiz said.
If passed into law, the Dance Performer Registration Act would go into effect Jan. 1, 2008.