Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Liquor License Regulations in British Columbia

It was several months ago when I began a project to offer community-based revisions to the liquor-primary license guide where it pertains to strip clubs. The current guidelines are ridiculously vague and do far more harm than good. Discretion is left up to individual inspectors, many of whom are over-stuffed, pompous, power-tripping morality police. It makes me wonder how these people get these jobs.

Susie (another coalition member) and I were both working on similar initiatives at the time. These were our babies - not funded, not supported by any relevant or reputable backing, not a coalition thing. In fact, I've always had a bit of a problem getting buy in for stripper initiatives from other coalition members. They are too far removed to understand and perhaps they do not trust my judgment.

However, I was very excited about the revisions project because it was a project that I could consult my community for. A project that was related specifically to exotic dancers. And while it was difficult to get consensus on anything during the discussions - certain themes continually arose.

1) A desire to create guidelines that will protect the exotic dance industry as a non-contact industry where dancers are paid for their stage shows. There is a fear that if we do not protect these elements of our industry that it will degenerate into one like Ontario where contact dances are the norm and dancers are expected to dance on stage for free.

2) A desire to create an industry that is supportive of non-contact options for exotic dancers and supports varying exiting strategies (such as becoming a dancing waitress).

3) A desire to create specific, understandable guidelines to ensure that enforcement does not depend on the individual discretion of inspectors, but is consistent across the province.

We felt that such guidelines should be made in consultation with exotic entertainment industry members, to ensure that they (1) accurately reflect the industry as it exists; (2) have clear definitions so that enforcement does not depend on the individual discretion of inspectors, but is consistent across the province; (3) provide clear and detailed information about what would or would not constitute infractions; (4) do not require illogical practices surrounding the general nature of the industry; and (5) provide clear and obtainable expectations for exotic entertainers to fulfill their occupations in safety and free from violation or harassment.

The "violation or harrassment" was largely in reference to the practice of liquor inspectors and/or police barging into private show booths while dancers are in various stages of undress to determine if sex work was occuring in those booths. But what was really fucked about that "reason for barging in" was cited by the police department as not a concern to them. They said they didn't really care if sex work was happening in strip clubs, when we approached them about their practices - so perhaps this was just one of the liquor inspectors perverted personal goals. Who knows?

So we approached the police at a board meeting I wrote about in another piece, and we began to write the liquor license revisions. Initially there was a lot of interest in the revisions from industry members. But much of our talk disintegrated into argument, and there were "naysayers" as I like to call them - people who just don't find anything good to say.

Sixty-six industry members were contacted by email for their input and a discussion was started in an industry section (only authorized members can participate) of The Naked Truth forums. Of the people contacted and invited to participate, eight former and current exotic dancers, four club employees, and two industry agents participated in creating the revisions.

But in the end, interest waned and I ended up finishing up the revisions myself based on all the input from others. In particular, bad feelings arose around the issue of "upstairs rooms." Some were in favour of them and others against them. But in the end, I realized that those rooms are essentially considered exempt from the liquor regulations, so I made them exempt in my mind from the revisions and just hoped for the best.

Susie and I had really wanted to print the revisions and send them personally to every MLA in the BC legislature. But after months of not being to raise the $500 to do so, we finally decided to do it the easy way.

The easy way meant sitting for over an hour sending the packages out one by one to about 79 MLA's. Their emails are available on the Provincial Government website. I sent them out yesterday. Do you think they will read them? After all that hard work, I really hope so.


MVL said...

Would you share your revisions to the Liquor Control Act with your readers?

I'd be interested.



Annie Temple said...

Yes, I will post them soon!