Gays join fray in video store flap 02/06/98
GLAA defends nude dancing establishments
Mayor Anthony Williams
One Judiciary Square
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Mayor Williams:
We are writing to you to indicate our strong and insistent endorsement of Title II, Section 202 of the Bill 13-449, which will reinstate licensure of establishments offering nude dancing entertainment, and to express our strenuous rejection of the opposition to this provision. The Bill is currently under active consideration by the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs of the Council of the District of Columbia. That Section would repeal Section 8(b) of the Alcoholic Beverage Control and Rules Reform Amendment Act of 1994, which is presently codified as § 904.6 of 23 DCMR.
By way of brief, relevant historical background:
About 1986, included in a sweeping revision of the District's half-century-old alcoholic beverage laws and regulations, in response to strong testimony from the citizenry, was a provision later codified as 23 DCMR 904.5, which provided for issuance of licenses to establishments serving alcoholic beverages and permitting nude dancing. Except for a grandfathering clause, such establishments were to be limited to the Central Business District of the City. Pursuant to the new legislation, a number of such establishments appeared some featuring female dancers, some featuring male dancers.
In 1994, in a hasty enactment, without hearings or public input, in response to hysterical and paranoid representations from a few downtown business establishments, the Council enacted the above-cited §904.6 which effectively repealed §904.5, except, again, for a grandfathering clause. Given the normal vicissitudes of business, this meant and was intended to mean that as businesses closed, there would be no replacement, and, by attrition, nude dancing would eventually vanish from the District entirely, flatly thwarting the clear wishes of the citizens of the District, collectively, who enjoy this harmless form of entertainment and have a right to be enabled to continue to do so.
In response to representations from GLAA and others, the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has introduced this legislation which would repeal the misbegotten 1994 legislation, and restore the option of presentation of nude dancing for entertainment in downtown establishments. It is that which we endorse and support hereby.
The opposition to this repealer arises from offensive efforts by a few arrogant businesspeople who have joined up in an unholy alliance with some puritanical clergymen, to try to remake the morality of the District to their own liking, and to impose their views of acceptable entertainment upon a collective District citizenry who have made it quite clear through their patronage of these establishments that they do not share those views. If some people do not approve of or enjoy nude dancing, let them stay out of the establishments featuring it; that is their loss but their right. But they must not be allowed to interfere with those who do enjoy such entertainment. Let the people of the District, individually, decide our own morals for ourselves, and our own forms of entertainment. We do not need the City Council to prescribe permitted and prohibited forms of entertainment at the behest of a particular minority, religious view.
The primary substantive opposition to nude dancing establishments arises from a claim which has by now achieved the status of a "revealed truth" not needing proof, that such establishments bring with them "adverse secondary effects" - alleged detrimental effects on the ambience of their neighborhoods. First: The claim is not borne out by fact and is entirely mythical here in Washington. The claim is an effort to demonize such establishments. Such secondary effects just do not exist here. Second: If they should arise with respect to any particular establishment, they can be addressed on an individual basis, without the abolition of an entire class of licensure, as the 1994 legislation does. Third: Because of the restriction of new licenses to the Central Business District, there will be no impact on residential neighborhoods.
Here in Washington, all the establishments featuring nude dancing are, to our perceptions, highly successful business operations, which attract large numbers of customers - far larger numbers than the few hostile businesspeople and clergymen opposing them. Therefore the people of the District, collectively, have "voted with their feet," in favor of nude dancing establishments. Let marketplace forces prevail. When the collective capacity of such establishments exceeds the demand, some will fail, the remainder will become more competitive, and the good old American capitalistic system will prevail. That is the way it is for all other businesses. That is as it should be for nude dancing establishments.
We note, finally, that such entertainment is popular with tourists and visiting businesspeople. It greatly enhances DC as a tourist destination, adding to a vibrant and diverse nightlife that compliments the daytime tourist attractions. Its abolition will result in a significant loss of business and taxes to the District.
THEREFORE: We urge that Section 202 of Bill 13-449 be retained and be enacted unchanged by the City Council.
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
CC: Members, Council of the District of Columbia
Dr. Abdusalam Omer, Chief of Staff
Mr. Eric Price, Deputy Mayor
Ms. Darlene Taylor, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs