Grace Deng

(Washington State Standard) Strippers and queer community members rallied on Monday at the Washington state Capitol, calling on House lawmakers to pass a bill that would clear a pathway to liquor sales and improve workplace standards in strip clubs.

“We are the experts on this topic,” said Peach, who identified herself only by her dancer name. “There is no one in the government that understands the strip club workplace better than we do.”

Senate Bill 6105, also known as the Strippers’ Bill of Rights, passed through the Senate on a 29-20 vote. The bill, supported by dancer-led group Strippers are Workers, would mandate security staffing, restrict clubs from charging dancers excessive fees and require them to provide strippers with training on de-escalating situations with problem customers and preventing sex trafficking.

SB 6105 would also ban local ordinances on distance between strippers and customers, which dancers say stigmatizes their work. The House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards is scheduled to possibly discuss the legislation on Tuesday.

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, chief sponsor of the bill, said at the rally that the bill is about making sure workers have rights, regardless of the work they’re doing.

A last-minute amendment to the bill, introduced by Seattle Democrat Sen. Jamie Pedersen, would also toss out lewd conduct regulations that recently allowed city and state inspectors, including police, to show up at four gay bars in Seattle unannounced and potentially cite one gay bar for “exposure of a male nipple.”

The Liquor and Cannabis Board said the inspections were routine. Bar owners in Seattle’s Capitol Hill say they felt targeted by law enforcement.

“Imagine what it’s like to be spending time with your friends, to be grooving to music, dancing, having a good time, appreciating art and beauty — to have armed agents storm in, to have them take photographs of your friends, shining flashlights on your body,” said one LGBTQ+ protester, Chad Swaney.

“That is not acceptable,” Swaney said.

Peach, 28, said the provisions which ban liquor in strip clubs and “lewd conduct” in gay bars are symptoms of a society that criminalizes sex work and queer communities.

Despite making it through the Senate, a pathway to legal liquor in Washington strip clubs has been met with skepticism from House lawmakers, including House Speaker Laurie Jinkins.

Strippers say customers show up drunk anyway, and legalizing the sale of liquor in strip clubs would help bring in more customers. Washington is the only state in the country without some form of legal alcohol sales in strip clubs.

Strippers are Workers originally said they’d support passing the bill even if it does not include a pathway to legal liquor in clubs.

However, the group reversed its position this week after the Cannabis and Liquor Board indicated that it believes the Legislature has sole authority to legalize alcohol in strip clubs.

“We are very scared that if we pass this bill without some sort of pathway to alcohol, we will end up shutting down clubs,” said Madison Zack-Wu, who heads Strippers are Workers.

Strippers are Workers brought a stripper pole to the rally, where dancers took turns performing in the rain. “We strip our clothes, not our pay,” protesters chanted.