JUNE 23, 1997
'Secondary effects' lead to strong adult entertainment law
by Andrew Walgamott
Protecting its citizens against the second-hand effects of topless dance clubs, Bothell adopted a restrictive adult entertainment ordinance at last week's City Council meeting. The measure regulates locations where adult entertainment facilities can be located and sets guidelines for what goes on inside such establishments. While maximizing regulation, it concurs with state laws.
"This ordinance will basically provide appropriate plans that allow the city to regulate the location of adult entertainment and how business is conducted inside," said City Manager Rick Kirkwood.
Last July, Bothell imposed a one-year moratorium on adult entertainment facilities locating in the city while staff reviewed and revised existing policies, and awaited a Washington State Supreme Court ruling on several nightclub lawsuits against Bellevue. The break gave Bothell a chance to word an ordinance that would impose the maximum legal restrictions on facilities.
"We had to create sensible standards. We can't ban adult entertainment, but we had to make our ordinance as stringent as possible within the law. Our laws have to be defendable in a court case," Noblet said. "And we had to make sure [adult entertainment facilities] weren't located in neighborhoods or school areas," he added.
While allowing for adult entertainment facilities to be licensed and operate within Bothell, the council also found that adult businesses are associated with "secondary effects," such as crime and prostitution, having negative impacts on property values, contributing to neighborhood blight, and generating noise, traffic, and litter.
"We took a leadership position now instead of having it put on our doorstep," Councilmember Mike Noblet said.
In a recent court case, dancers at a Bellevue club complained that the city's distance requirements would drive them out of business. The court decided against the dancers. Bothell adopted a similar ordinance.
Under the provisions of Bothell's ordinance, on-stage nude dancers in adult entertainment facilities will be separated from customers by eight feet with a three-foot railing running around the stage. The stage would be at least two feet above the level of viewers, as well. Dancers mingling with customers will not be allowed to perform any closer than a torso-to-torso distance of less than four feet. Gratuities have to placed into the dancer's hand or a receptacle, but not upon themselves or their clothing.
By comparison, dancers at the Lake City Deja Vu can perform within six inches of customers while couch and table dancing, according to an employee who refused to be identified.
Bothell's law also requires there to be a licensed manager overseeing every stage where dancers perform. Entertainers and managers will be required to apply for business licenses from the city clerk and be fingerprinted by the Bothell Police Department. Licenses will cost managers and entertainers $150 per year. Licenses cost only $77 for performers and managers at the Lake City Deja Vu.
Bothell has zoned adult facilities to a small strip off State Route 522 near Tommy Africa's and the Yakima Fruit Market, hoping to minimize secondary effects of adult businesses. The area is separated from residential and other commercial businesses by cliffs and the highway. There will be no more than three businesses allowed there at one time. Outside lighting and landscaping will be regulated to not bring attention to adult businesses. Signage will be kept to a minimum, including business name, address, hours of operation, and age restrictions. Words and drawings on the outside of the building depicting sexual acts or materials will be forbidden. Businesses won't be allowed to operate between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.