State Senate makes quick work, repeals ‘lewd laws’ governing bars, clubs

Feb 7, 2024, 6:30 PM

LGBTQ+ bar...

An LGBTQ+ bar in Seattle (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Less than two weeks after what critics called “a raid” by Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) agents on four LGBTQ+ clubs, Senate lawmakers passed a bill that includes the removal of the state’s lewd laws governing places serving liquor.

An amendment to SB 6105 requires the LCB to repeal WAC 314-11-050, which prohibits liquor licensees from allowing scantily clad patrons and employees to expose certain body parts and engage in contact of a sexual nature on their premises. (A PDF of the substitute bill can be viewed here.)

A citation by the LCB of lewd contact could lead to the cancellation of the club owners’ liquor license.

The repeal of the lewd laws governing bars shall not be construed as legalizing conduct described in the rule which is otherwise illegal under existing laws governing lewd and obscene behavior.

The primary bill, SB 6105, provides safety procedures for performers in adult entertainment establishments.

The bill passed Wednesday 29-20 along party line vote with Democrats in the majority.

It covers training for security staff, panic buttons, customer behavior, and limits certain charges by the club to performers. It also requires the suspension of a club’s liquor license if it violates any elements of SB 6105.

Portions of this bill are contingent on the legislature greenlighting the serving of alcohol at strip clubs. Currently, alcohol is prohibited from being served at adult entertainment establishments.

HB 2036 has some similar safety conditions for performers that are included in SB 6105 but doesn’t have the liquor component. It has passed its committee and is now in the rules committee. It will be up to the Democratic leadership in the House to bring it to the floor. (A PDF of the substitute bill can be viewed here.)

Lewd law language dates back to 1975

Dan Jacobs, staff to the LCB, said the agency has received six petitions for rulemaking that requested the repeal of the lewd conduct rule.

He said the petitions used pretty much identical language, and they all asked for the same thing, which is the immediate halt of enforcement of the lewd conduct rule and repeal of the rule.

Jacobs said the core language of the lewd law goes back to 1975 and it hasn’t been changed since then.

“That’s when we put in rules about lewd conduct, and a lot of the language is about which body parts can and can’t be shown,

“Some of the terms for acts that are forbidden have biblical references,” Jacobs added. “A lot of the wording that is the most patently offensive comes from 1975 and hasn’t been changed since that time.”

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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State Senate makes quick work, repeals ‘lewd laws’ governing bars, clubs