Governor finds LCB’s lewd law suspension ‘well-reasoned and appropriate’

Feb 2, 2024, 1:03 PM

LCB lewd law...

Patrons drink and celebrate within an LGBTQ+ bar. (Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

(Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

The Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has suspended enforcing several of its regulations for businesses that distribute alcohol, tobacco, cannabis or vapor products, including its lewd conduct rule, a decision supported by Governor Jay Inslee.

“The LCB’s follow-up actions here are well-reasoned and appropriate,” Mike Faulk, deputy communications director for the Office of Governor Jay Inslee, told KIRO Newsradio.

LCB’s lewd conduct rule bars any of the aforementioned establishments from patrons exposing themselves publicly, not wearing any clothing or performing sexual acts in public, among other regulations.

But the decision to suspend enforcing lewd conduct infractions came after Seattle’s Joint Enforcement Team (JET) — accompanied by LCB enforcement officers — conducted unannounced inspections of various nightclubs, bars, restaurants, mobile food vendors, strip clubs and massage parlors — including four LGBTQ+ establishments.

More on the LGBTQ+ bar visits from LCB: Officers deny LGBTQ+ bar visits were raids, officials seek to change lewd laws

A visit to one of the LGBTQ+ locations was a follow-up to a complaint made to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) about the lack of security and the amount of sexual conduct on the premises. The reason for visiting other LGBTQ+ locations was a follow-up on ‘over-service’ violations witnessed at the location two weeks prior.

Bar owners were advised Friday and Saturday that LCB enforcement officers observed multiple violations of LCB’s lewd law, witnessing “permit violations, liquor violations, safety violations, youth access violations and lewd conduct violations,” according to Chandra Brady, LCB’s Director of Enforcement and Education.

But a coalition of gay bar owners and several prominent LGBTQ+ activists from Seattle responded with a statement on social media expressing concern about what they referred to as “raids” at the LGBTQ+ nightlife venues.

“The clubs worry over what they perceive as new, unjustified actions by the liquor board and JET,” the coalition’s statement read. “They emphasize the importance of their venues as safe spaces for LGBTQ individuals, expressing that these raids disrupt operations and undermine trust within the community.”

“At Wednesday’s board meeting and in many private conversations, we heard strong objections to our actions,” LCB wrote in a letter to Governor Jay Inslee Thursday. “The community also stressed the value of these clubs as a safe place for people who often face discrimination, threats and violence. Message received.”

The LCB will also suspend enforcing penalties on rule violations related to lewd conduct. While businesses will be notified of any potential violations, no citations will be issued for the previous visits from JET. LCB staff is also preparing a proposal to open its lewd law regulations for review.

More on LCB: LCB shuts down unlicensed cannabis dispensary in Nisqually Basin

“We will continue to work with legislators this session, particularly the LGBTQ+ caucus and our legislative committees, to try to find solutions through legislation that further our mutual efforts,” LCB’s letter continued. “These steps are only the beginning of what we hope is a new relationship with Washington’s LGBTQ+ community.”

The LCB also announced it has suspended its partnership with JET.

Once LCB staff prepares its proposal reviewing, amending or repealing the lewd conduct regulations, the board will vote on whether to accept the recommendations on Feb. 14.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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Governor finds LCB’s lewd law suspension ‘well-reasoned and appropriate’