Local governments manage to keep a pretty firm damper on nudie bars with the combined force of licensing, nuisance and zoning laws. Unless a club holds the proper adult entertainment permits, dancers can't (legally) take their tops or bottoms off. Undercover stings catching unlicensed nudity can get a place shut down or suspended of a liquor license pretty quick.
But one Santa Clara County elected doesn't think those rules go far enough.
Fearing the proliferation of "bikini bars" in the South Bay, Supervisor Cindy Chavez asked if the county could broaden its definition of "adult entertainment" to include even fully clothed dancing if it's in a cage, with a pole or on a lap. That would allow the county to demand adult entertainment licensing, normally reserved for strip clubs, of bars and nightclubs with go-go dancers.
"There are reports that, in spite of the 'bikini bar' label, the entertainers often remove the bikinis, which results in what is essentially an unregulated strip club," Chavez wrote in a pearl-clutching memo asking the county to study the matter. "These reports have been documented by the widespread practice of posting images and videos from these establishments on social media."
The logic, apparently, is that because some clubs break the rules, there should be more rules. There will be no unregulated freeing of nipples on the supervisor's watch.
In the April 2014 recommendation, Chavez invoked the usual outrage about adult-themed clubs being a magnet for crime, blight and unsavory characters.
Nearly a year later, county staff is back with a report saying that, basically, labeling fully clothed sexy dancing as "adult entertainment" would run the risk of violating constitutionally protected freedom of expression. It would also unintentionally apply to other businesses, like fitness studios that teach pole dancing.
Given the protections afforded by the First Amendment, the county would have to prove that fully (or even scantily) clothed lap, pole or cage dancing causes enough crime to make a case for outlawing it.
"This could include data and studies showing increased rates of crime, prostitution, human trafficking, or problems with noise," county staff explained, "taking into account information from arrest records, complaints, and investigations performed by the sheriff’s office."
Currently, the county defines an adult entertainment establishment as one whose performers regularly display "specified anatomical areas for observation by patrons or customers."
To wit: "Less than completely and opaquely covered human genitals, pubic region, buttock and female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola; or, human male genitals in a discernibly turgid state."
The county could find no other example of a jurisdiction defining fully clothed, or even scantily clothed, suggestive dancing as "adult entertainment" requiring the attendant licensing.
As part of the same request, Chavez directed the county to explore the idea of creating a local liquor license and establishing a minimum private room size to prevent people from sneaking off for paid sex. County staff said the state already does a sufficient job regulating alcohol permits and that imposing rules about room sizes would be just about impossible to enforce.
County planners suggested that if Chavez is worried about human trafficking and wants to heighten enforcement of bikini bars, they could look into the possibility of imposing licensing requirements similar to massage parlors. Or, they could add a new use permit for businesses in unincorporated areas that stay open past midnight—similar to what's required in San Jose.
In 2013, then-downtown Councilman Sam Liccardo raised similar concerns when trying to crack down on bikini bars. Worried that Gold Club would sleaze up the city and scare people away from downtown, he proposed hiking up fees and handing down limits on touching, lighting and table-top dancing.
The issues raised by Liccardo was that sexually-themed businesses tend to attract crime and require more policing. He also wasn't too keen about the location, either. Gold Club moved into the distinguished-looking historic bank building in the heart of downtown, the cradle of his new-urbanist hopes and dreams.
“[W]e can’t expect investors and developers to continue to risk their $130 million on towers that will be routinely surrounded by 24-year-old men with elevated levels of testosterone and intoxication,” he cautioned at the time.
- Ken Yeager, the first openly gay county supervisor, wants to open an office of LGBTQ affairs. No other state or county (and only a few cities) in the nation have such an office, he says. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning community, which makes up about 4 percent of the county's population, has been traditionally underrepresented in government. Outcomes for the community are statistically much worse than the population at-large, Yeager notes. According to the county's health assessment, people who identify as LGBT are more likely to be victims of hate crimes, harassment and domestic violence. A dedicated office would help address those needs, he says. "For many years, Santa Clara County has been a leader in addressing the needs of underserved populations that require the services of the county," he wrote. "In recent years, the county has created individual offices to serve women, veterans, racial and ethnic minorities, and soon immigrants. All of these communities are worthy of extra focus. By focusing particular attention on these groups, we are able to better serve them."
- To avoid conflicts of interest and prevent over-prescribing psychotropic meds to kids, Yeager wants to develop a policy to prevent physicians working with the county's foster children from accepting kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies.
- While "tiny homes" present a promising possibility for housing the homeless, there are lots of legal barriers. Still, county officials are talking about offering pre-development loans to nonprofits trying to figure out how to make them a feasible option for Silicon Valley's 7,600 unsheltered residents. Most tiny home designs lack heat, electricity or plumbing, don't comply with local building codes and fall short of state standards for habitability. Micro-homes that are code compliant tend to be cost-prohibitive—at least for local governments. Using travel trailers allows people to skirt building codes entirely, but might require updates to zoning ordinances before they're legally considered permanent homes. Finally, there's a lack of affordable land to build on. Meanwhile, the county will consider a spate of short-term options. Funding all unused emergency shelters would cost the county some $1.7 million. Teaming up with the city of San Jose to provide motel vouchers would run $100 per person or $200 a day for a family. Creating a "safe parking" program for people living out of their cars would total up to $450,000 a year, including the cost of supportive services.
- Instead of contracting the work out to an outside agency, the District Attorney's Office wants to bring victim assistance services in-house.
- The 2015 homeless census cost local governments $155,000 to conduct. But the results therein could be used to apply for about $15 million in federal housing funds.
WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Clerk of the Board, 408.299.5001