Chapter 9.52
EROTIC DANCE STUDIOS

Sections:

9.52.010    Purpose.

9.52.020    Definitions.

9.52.030    Prima facie evidence of erotic dance studio.

9.52.040    Certain activities prohibited.

9.52.050    Erotic dance studio license – Application, issuance.

9.52.060    Erotic dance studio license – Revocation, renewal.

9.52.070    Dancer’s license.

9.52.080    Dancer’s license – Application, issuance.

9.52.090    Dancer’s license renewal – Revocation.

9.52.100    Erotic dance studio regulations.

9.52.110    Inspections.

9.52.120    Nuisance declared.

9.52.130    Penalty.

9.52.140    Exclusion.

9.52.150    Severability.

9.52.160    Appeals to the council.

9.52.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to regulate erotic dance studios to the end that the many types of criminal activities frequently engendered by such studios will be curtailed; however, it is recognized that such regulations cannot de facto approach prohibition. Otherwise, a protected form of expression would vanish. The ordinance codified in this chapter represents a balancing of competing interests: reduced criminal activity through the regulation of erotic dance studios versus the protected rights of erotic dancers and patrons. (Ord. 85-11 § 1).

9.52.020 Definitions.

The following definitions shall apply in this chapter unless the context clearly requires otherwise:

A. “Council” means the county council of Whatcom County.

B. “Dancer” means a person who dances or otherwise performs for an erotic dance studio.

C. “Bureau” means the county bureau of buildings and code administration.

D. “Erotic dance studio” means a fixed place of business which emphasizes and seeks, through one or more dancers, to arouse or excite the patrons’ sexual desires.

E. “Sheriff” means the Whatcom County sheriff.

F. “Hearing examiner” means the county hearing examiner. (Ord. 85-11 § 2).

9.52.030 Prima facie evidence of erotic dance studio.

It shall be prima facie evidence that a business is an erotic dance studio when one or more dancers displays or exposes with less than a full opaque covering, that portion of the female breast lower than the upper edge of the areola, or the pubic area of either sex with less than a full opaque covering.

(Ord. 85-11 § 3 (a)).

9.52.040 Certain activities prohibited.

No person, firm, partnership, corporation, or other entity which is regulated by this chapter shall publicly display or expose or suffer the public display or exposure with less than a full opaque covering of any portion of a person’s genitals, pubic area or buttocks. (Ord. 85-11 § 3 (b)).

9.52.050 Erotic dance studio license – Application, issuance.

A. Application for an erotic dance studio license shall be made to the sheriff. No erotic dance studio shall be operated without such license.

B. An application for an erotic dance studio license shall be verified and shall contain or set forth the following information:

1. The name, home address, home telephone number, principal occupation, and age of the applicant;

2. The business name, business address, and business telephone number of the establishment or proposed establishment;

3. Whether the business or proposed business is the undertaking of a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation; if a sole proprietorship, the application shall set forth the name, home address, home telephone number and principal occupation of the sole proprietor. If a partnership, the application shall set forth the names, home addresses, home telephone numbers and principal occupation and respective ownership of each partner and whether the partners are general, limited or silent. If a corporation files the application, it shall set forth the corporate name, a copy of the articles of incorporation, and the names, home addresses, home telephone numbers and principal occupations of every officer, director and shareholder having more than five percent of the outstanding shares and the number of shares held by each;

4. The names, home addresses, home telephone numbers, and principal occupations of every person, partnership or corporation having any interest in the real or personal property utilized or to be utilized by the business or proposed business;

5. Whether the applicant, anyone having an interest in the business or proposed business, or anyone having an interest in the real or personal property utilized or to be utilized by the business or proposed business has been within the last five years convicted of or forfeited bail for any crime, excluding minor traffic offenses, and, if so, the application shall state the person involved, the charge, date, court and disposition of the charge;

6. Whether the applicant, anyone having an interest in the business or proposed business or anyone having an interest in the real or personal property utilized or to be utilized by the business or proposed business, is operating or has within the last five years operated a like business, where that business is or was located, whether it is still operating or if not, when it ceased operation.

C. Applications shall be accompanied by a nonrefundable fee of $500.00 where there are three or less people who have an interest in the business. There shall be an additional charge of $50.00 for each person above three in order to cover the investigation costs of the Whatcom County sheriff’s department. Within five days of receipt of an application for an erotic dance studio license, the sheriff shall transmit a copy of such application to the bureau of buildings and code administration and to the hearing examiner.

D. Within 20 days of receipt of a copy of such license application, the following shall occur:

1. The sheriff shall begin an investigation to determine whether the information contained in the application regarding convictions or bail forfeitures is true and accurate; the sheriff shall conduct criminal record checks to determine whether those individuals mentioned in subdivision B5 of this section have prior criminal convictions; the sheriff shall report his findings to the hearing examiner;

2. The bureau shall visit the premises and shall determine if the use or proposed use of the premises is in conformity with the Whatcom County zoning ordinance; the bureau shall thereafter report its findings to the hearing examiner;

3. The bureau shall visit the premises and determine if the buildings upon the premises meet the requirements of the building, fire, mechanical and plumbing codes, the bureau shall thereafter report its findings to the hearing examiner.

E. Once the hearing examiner has received the reports mentioned in subdivisions D.1 – D.3 of this section it shall conduct a public hearing within 30 days; the hearing examiner shall provide notice of such public hearing at the expense of the applicant by publishing notice of such hearing no more than 10 but less than five days prior to the hearing. At such public hearing, the hearing examiner shall determine the following:

1. Whether the applicant, anyone having an interest in the business or proposed business, or anyone having an interest in the real or personal property utilized or to be utilized by the business or the proposed business is/are eligible to be licensed. No person shall be eligible to receive a license to operate an erotic dance studio who has been convicted in this state or elsewhere of a crime of violence or a crime involving drugs or prostitution, or who has committed violations of the ordinance codified in this chapter, or of similar ordinances in other jurisdictions, or who has been convicted of any felony. And, furthermore, no license shall be issued unless the applicant shall provide a sworn written affidavit that he/she has not been convicted of a crime or committed a violation, as set forth above, in this state or elsewhere;

2. Whether the use or proposed use of the premises is in conformity with the Whatcom County zoning ordinance;

3. Whether the buildings upon the premises meet the requirements of the building, fire, plumbing and mechanical codes.

F. If, as a result of the public hearing, the hearing examiner finds in the affirmative to those inquiries mentioned in subdivisions E.1 – E.3 of this section, it shall issue an erotic dance studio license which shall be valid, unless sooner revoked, until the first occurring December 31st. (Ord. 85-28; Ord. 85-11 § 4).

9.52.060 Erotic dance studio license – Revocation, renewal.

A. An erotic dance studio license may be renewed by following the application procedure set forth in Section 9.52.050; provided, a renewal application shall specifically state whether those persons mentioned in Section 9.52.050B and whether any presently or previously employed dancers have been convicted of, or charged with any violation of this chapter, RCW Chapters 69.50 or 9A.88; and, provided further, the hearing examiner shall not renew an erotic dance studio license if those persons mentioned in Section 9.52.050B are presently or previously employed dancers who have been convicted of any violation of this in connection with the erotic dance studio.

B. Any person may file with the hearing examiner a petition to revoke an erotic dance studio license; provided, that such petition shall state the grounds for which revocation is sought. The petition shall contain the signatures of at least 100 duly registered voters. Said petition shall be accompanied by a filing fee as set forth in the Whatcom County Unified Fee Schedule and shall be filed with the hearing examiner’s office. Upon receipt of such a petition, the hearing examiner shall hold a public hearing to determine the merits of the petition; the hearing examiner shall give the erotic dance studio license the written notice of such hearing by mailing such notice to the licensee’s address as contained in the most recent application. Such notice shall be given no less than five days prior to the hearing. Said petitions shall not be used to harass the operation of a validly operating erotic dance studio.

The hearing examiner shall revoke an erotic dance studio license if it finds any of the following:

1. That one or more of the conditions specified in subdivisions E.1 – E.3 of Section 9.52.050 would now be answered in the negative; or, if any of the conditions in Sections 9.52.030 or 9.52.040 have been violated;

2. That one or more of those persons mentioned in subdivision B5 of Section 9.52.050 or presently or previously employed dancers have been convicted of or forfeited bail to any violation of this chapter, RCW Chapters 69.50 or 9A.88 in connection with the erotic dance studio. (Ord. 93-080 Exh. M; Ord. 85-11 § 5).

9.52.070 Dancer’s license.

No person shall dance at an erotic dance studio without a valid dancer’s license issued by the sheriff. In addition, the applicant must be at least 18 years of age. (Ord. 85-11 § 6).

9.52.080 Dancer’s license – Application, issuance.

A. Application for a dancer’s license shall be verified and shall contain or set forth the following information:

1. Applicant’s name, home addresses (current and former), home telephone number, date of birth, and aliases (past or present);

2. The business name and address where the applicant intends to dance;

3. Prior convictions and bail forfeitures of the applicant, excluding minor traffic offenses; the application shall state the charge, date and court and disposition of charge;

4. Fingerprint card prepared by the sheriff and current photograph.

B. Applications shall be accompanied by a nonrefundable fee as set forth in the Whatcom County Unified Fee Schedule.

C. Within 20 days of receipt of the copy of such license/application, the sheriff shall begin an investigation to determine whether the information contained in the application is true and accurate; the sheriff shall conduct a criminal records check to determine if the applicant has a prior criminal conviction or convictions. If no criminal record is found then the sheriff shall issue the license. The license shall be good for one year from the date of issuance.

D. Appeal of Sheriff’s Denial of Dancer Permit to Hearing Examiner. The sheriff’s denial of a dancer’s permit may be appealed to the hearing examiner in accordance with Section 20.52.210 of the zoning ordinance, so long as the request for hearing is filed with the hearing examiner within 10 days of the sheriff’s decision. Weekends and judicial holidays shall be excluded from the 10-day period. (Ord. 93-080 Exh. M; Ord. 86-33 (part); Ord. 85-11 § 7).

9.52.090 Dancer’s license renewal – Revocation.

A. A dancer’s license may be renewed by following the application procedure set forth in Section 9.52.070; provided, a renewal application shall specifically state if the applicant has been charged with or convicted of any violation of this chapter, RCW Chapters 69.50 or 9A.88; and, provided further, the sheriff shall not renew a dancer’s license if the applicant has been convicted of a violation of this chapter, or RCW Chapters 69.50 or 9A.88 in connection with the erotic dance studio.

B. Any person may file with the hearing examiner a petition to revoke a dancer’s license under the same conditions as provided for in Section 9.52.060B. Such petition shall state the grounds for which revocation is sought. Upon receipt of such petition, the hearing examiner shall hold a public hearing to determine the merits of such petition. The hearing examiner shall give the licensee written notice of such hearing by mailing such notice to the licensee’s address as contained in the most recent application. Such notice shall be given no less than five days prior to the hearing.

The hearing examiner shall revoke a dancer’s license if it finds either of the following:

1. That the licensee has been convicted of a violation of this chapter, RCW Chapters 69.50 or 9A.88 in connection with the erotic dance studio; or

2. That the conditions found in Sections 9.52.030 and 9.52.040 have been violated. (Ord. 86-33 (part); Ord. 85-11 § 8).

9.52.100 Erotic dance studio regulations.

A. No person, firm, partnership, corporation or other entity shall advertise, or cause to be advertised, an erotic dance studio without a valid erotic dance studio license issued pursuant to this chapter.

B. An erotic dance studio licensee shall maintain and retain for a period of two years, the names, addresses and ages of all persons employed as dancers by the licensee.

C. No erotic dance studio licensee shall employ as a dancer a person under the age of 18 years or a person not licensed pursuant to this chapter.

D. No person under the age of 18 years shall be admitted to an erotic dance studio.

E. An erotic dance studio shall be closed between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.

F. No erotic dance studio licensee shall serve, sell, distribute, or suffer the consumption or possession of any intoxicating liquor or controlled substance upon the premises of the licensee.

G. An erotic dance studio licensee shall conspicuously display all licenses required by this chapter.

H. All dancing shall occur on a platform intended for that purpose which is raised at least two feet from the level of the floor.

I. No dancing shall occur closer than 10 feet to any patron.

J. No dancer shall fondle or caress any patron and no patron shall fondle or caress any dancer.

K. No patron shall directly pay or give any gratuity to any dancer.

L. No dancer shall solicit any pay or gratuity from any patron. (Ord. 85-11 § 9).

9.52.110 Inspections.

A. All records required to be kept pursuant to this chapter shall be open to inspection by the sheriff, or his agents, during the hours when the erotic dance studio is open for business upon one day’s written notice to the licensee. The purpose of such inspection shall be to determine if the books and records meet the requirements of this chapter.

B. The premises and facilities of an erotic dance studio shall be (as an implied condition of receiving an erotic dance studio license) open to inspection by the sheriff, or his agents, during the hours when the dance studio is open for business. The purpose of such inspection shall be to determine if the dance studio is operated in accordance with the requirements of this chapter. It is hereby expressly declared that unannounced inspections are necessary to insure compliance with this chapter but that no erotic dance studio shall be inspected unannounced more frequently than twice in any calendar month.

C. For the purpose of this section, no visit to an erotic dance studio by any undercover operation of the sheriff shall be deemed to be an inspection. (Ord. 85-11 § 10).

9.52.120 Nuisance declared.

Any activity, act or conduct contrary to the provisions of this chapter are hereby declared to be unlawful and a public nuisance, and such activity, act or conduct may be enjoined by an action brought by the prosecuting attorney or other interested person. (Ord. 85-11 § 11).

9.52.130 Penalty.

Any person, firm or corporation violating any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and each such person, firm or corporation shall be deemed guilty of a separate offense for each and every day during which any violation is committed, continued or permitted and upon conviction of any such violation such person, firm or corporation shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by imprisonment of not more than 90 days or by both such fine and imprisonment; provided, no person shall be deemed guilty of any violation of this chapter if acting in an investigative capacity pursuant to the request or order of the sheriff or prosecuting attorney or duly appointed agent thereof. Additionally, a violation of this chapter shall cause the erotic dance studio license granted under this chapter to be null and void. (Ord. 85-11 § 12).

9.52.140 Exclusion.

Notwithstanding any provisions of this chapter, this chapter shall not apply to theatre events such as traveling theatre events, opera, musicals, plays or events sponsored by nonprofit corporations or public entities. (Ord. 85-11 § 13).

9.52.150 Severability.

If any portion of this chapter, or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder or application to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected. (Ord. 85-11 § 14).

9.52.160 Appeals to the council.

Interested parties may appeal adverse decisions of the hearing examiner to the county council, under the provisions of Whatcom County Code Chapter 20.92.600. (Ord. 85-11 § 15).