Strippers, strip club owners lobbying San Diego officials to lower permit fees

Strippers and strip club owners in San Diego are calling on city officials to lower their annual permit fees, claiming they are unjustified and much higher than in other cities.

The San Diego Hospitality and Entertainment Coalition, a group representing the industry, wants to create a task force that would examine the risks of imposing these high fees that can push women toward unregulated websites where they are more vulnerable to prostitution and human trafficking, The San Diego Union-Tribunereported.

The campaigners say that the permit fees – set to rise to $388 for a stripper and $5,830 for a club operator this summer – could also lead to lower overall revenue for the city as more businesses and women could decide to exit the regulated industry.

“No other city charges fees this high, or even at all. Ten years ago the fees were half as much, and it was a lot easier to make ends meet.”

— Debra Seavello, a stripper at Expose in Kearny Mesa.

Police officials, however, say the fees are necessary. They say they need to allocate the personnel to process the permits, respond to incidents in the clubs and prevent prostitution and other criminal activity.

Much of the police work also occurs during late-night hours and that takes police resources away from other enforcement work, officials said at an earlier meeting.

But strippers and strip club owners said the fees are already higher than justified by how much police actually spends time enforcing laws involving strip clubs.

“No other city charges fees this high, or even at all,” Debra Seavello, a stripper at Expose in Kearny Mesa, told a city committee, according to the Union-Tribune. “Ten years ago the fees were half as much, and it was a lot easier to make ends meet.”

“That’s dangerous for them. At least in the clubs we keep them safe and regulated.”

— Jennifer Sales, a former stripper.

For comparison, a strip club operator in Los Angeles pays $528 for a permit compared to nearly $6,000 in San Diego.

“I know there might be a certain stigma for dancers, however these are mothers who are trying to raise children and do the right thing by working rather than being a burden to the state,” Seavello said. “We can’t afford these increases year after year.”

Jennifer Sales, a former stripper who now works as a manager at the strip club, claims the fees are encouraging vulnerable women to use Craig’s List or web cams for work instead. “That’s dangerous for them,” she said, according to the paper. “At least in the clubs we keep them safe and regulated.”

Dino Palmiotto, owner of Expose and president of the industry group, accused the city of violating state law by charging more than what it should actually cost for police to monitor the strip clubs and strippers.

He said the city could be sued if they don’t form a task force to address their concerns.