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Dancers seek state regulation of strip clubs

Dancers seek state regulation of strip clubs (PHOTO: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - State lawmakers are taking another look at strip clubs after dancers complained that sexual harassment and many safety issues aren't being addressed.

The quest for new protections come as dancers grow frustrated over long-standing issues about job expectations and the work environment. The dancers said if they complain to their bosses they run the risk of getting fired, so they are asking members of the legislature for a new way to regulate the adult entertainment industry in Washington.

“I've been told by one manager that I don't do enough during a dance for the prices that we charge,” said Aubrey Watkins.

Another concern brought up by these workers are the security guards, who they said do little to screen for problem customers. Some men known to harass the women are allowed back into the clubs where they caused the trouble.

“There's no list, there's no blacklist,” said Aayliyah Topps, a dancer. “Managers aren't making a phone call, like ‘Look out for this guy that's coming over there,’ there's nothing like that."

There are economic issues as well. Dancers said they can actually lose money while working because many clubs require a pay-out each night, which pressures some women to do what they can to make up the difference.

“Because you feel like you have to pay that at the end of the night or it's going to be coming out of pocket for yourself," Topps said.

On Monday, dancers went before the House Labor and Workforce Standards Committee to ask for more regulation and worker training.

“We're all workers,” Watkins said. “We deserve the same rights as others."

Strip club operators did not return our calls but did tell lawmakers during the committee work session they provide a safe work environment.

“Our venues have staff, safety protocols and advanced camera monitoring equipment,” said Winter Finke of Showgirls. “We are subject to regular unannounced enforcement audits, we work closely with law enforcement in each of the communities and we always have good communications and relationships with all of them."

Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, said she may introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to address many of the concerns raised by these dancers. Specifically, Orwall wants to address training standards, introduce unannounced site visits by inspectors and change how identification checks are done on customers trying to get in.

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