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Washington State: Exotic Dance Clubs Win Voter Referendum
By: Layne Winklebleck (Free Speech Coalition)
Seattle, Wa — By a 63% to 37% margin, voters here have overturned an exotic dance club ordinance which would have required dancers to stay 4 feet from patrons, banned direct tipping, outlawed private dances in VIP rooms and mandated bright lighting in the clubs. Seattle Referendum #1 was placed on the ballot by the dance clubs, which both funded a petition drive (See X-Press report, “Clubs Fund Seattle Dance Club Referendum,” 7/7/06) and later paid for numerous TV adds portraying supporters of the measure as moral scolds.
"I think Seattle is more open-minded and liberal than our politicians give us credit for being," said Tim Killian, campaign manager for Seattle Citizens for Free Speech, the organization funded by the clubs to overturn the rules. The election campaign was lopsided, with the clubs raising $866,000 for the effort, and supporters of the dance club ordinance raising nothing.
The vote is only the latest defeat in a series of mishaps that have befallen the Mayor and City Council around the exotic dance club issue. For seventeen years the city maintained an ill-advised “moratorium,” on new clubs, routinely renewing the moratorium each year, so that, in effect, the few existing clubs grandfathered-in prior to the moratorium were the only ones allowed to do business in the city. Then in 2005, U.S. District Judge James Robart, in a lawsuit brought by an entrepreneur, Bob Davis, who wanted to open a club in the city, said the moratorium had gone on so long that it was not valid. In addition to the lawsuit — the city recently settled with Bob Davis for a half-million dollars — the decision created problems for the city by opening up the potential for a slew of new dance club applications. In an effort to forestall new applications, the City Council passed the new dance club rules, making it less attractive for clubs to want to locate in Seattle.
After the election, Mayor Greg Nickels said the defeat of the rules had created "a financial motive to have strip clubs in the city." Earlier this year Nickels proposed zoning that would limit new clubs to the Sodo District, an industrial part of South Seattle, but that scheme did not get the endorsement of the city Planning Commission after the Commission heard dozens of residents of nearby Georgetown and Beacon Hill communities speak against the idea. (See X-Press report, “Exotic Dance Club Zone Idea Faces Problems,” 9/1/06).
The referendum victory by the clubs is reminiscent of the September 2006, Scottsdale, Arizona, referendum (Prop 401) also placed on the ballot after a petition drive organized by exotic dance clubs, in which voters by a substantial margin rejected a city-backed ordinance that would have placed drastic restrictions on the clubs. (See X-Press report, “Exotic Dance Club Zone Idea Faces Problems,” 9/1/06).
Seattle election results are from a Seattle Times general election chart, 11/8/06
Some information is from Jim Brunner, Seattle Times, 11/8/06
See also, Keri Murakami, Seattle P.I., 11/8/06