Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Proposed Revisions to BC's Liquor Primary Guidelines

A reader asked me to post the revised guidelines for the liquor primary I spoke about in another post. So here they are. But first, an update on the project. I received an email from Carole James:

Dear Trina,

Thank you for your recent email and attachments. This response is to assure you that they have been received by my office.

I have forwarded your e-mail to Mike Farnworth, the Opposition Critic for Public Safety and the Solicitor General, for his information. I have also sent your material to local Vancouver MLAs Jenny Kwan and Shane Simpson.

You have put an incredible amount of time and energy into this project; I appreciate you sharing it with me.

Please note that the confidentiality of all mail sent to this office is strictly adhered to and respected.

Sincerely,

Carole James, Leader

New Democrat Official Opposition


I am very encouraged by her email. I wrote back:


Hi Carole,

Thank you so much for responding and acknowledging the time and effort that went into creating the revised guidelines. I am certain that if people just took the time to read them and see how harmful they are as they exist, they will recognize the benefits of the revisions, for the exotic dance industry as well as for maintaining clear and understandable government publications. Please contact me any time to discuss this further.

In gratitude,

Trina

So without further ado, here are the final revisions as they were sent out. Please remember that the revisions were not made with the "upstairs" rooms in mind because we could not get consensus among industry members on how that might look, as well as that the current reg's seem not to touch those rooms anyhow (although inspectors still find their ways into those rooms for some reason).


Proposed Revisions to the Current

Liquor-Primary License Terms and Conditions –

A Guide for Liquor Licensees in British Columbia


Background

The following recommendations to revise one part of the regulations for Liquor Licensees in BC that pertain specifically to “Performances by Strippers, Exotic Dancers and Other Adult-Oriented Performers” (page 17), came as a result of the realization among exotic entertainment industry members that these guidelines are vague, undefined, and generally harmful to the members of the industry.

We (exotic entertainers) feel 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.

As a community, we hope that the liquor license regulations for strip clubs might also prevent clubs in British Columbia from becoming strictly VIP lounges – where dancers are not paid to perform on stage anymore and their incomes are dependent entirely on how many dances they sell in a given night. Within this model, the dancers actually pay the clubs to work in them. We want to preserve our industry as it exists, with an emphasis on showgirls (paid stage dancers) because it provides that clear boundary between fantasy and reality, and ensures one more non-contact option for women entering the industry.

The guidelines pertaining to the exotic entertainment industry currently found on page 17 in the guide are vague and open to misunderstanding.

Because the Liquor Board has the sweeping power to shut down clubs at their discretion, we feel that the rules and guidelines should be clearer and provide detailed explanations and specific terminology to ensure that infractions are not made in misunderstanding, and that inspectors are not making random judgments based on their own opinions rather than common industry standards.

To that purpose, we have created revised guidelines to replace the ones currently in use. We have included full explanations for the reasoning behind our recommendations.

Update: Following the creation of the proposed revisions, Trina Ricketts participated in a two hour conference call with Kari Toovey, Policy Analyst with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General Liquor Control and Licensing Branch; Donna Lister, a Regional Manager with Compliance and Enforcement for the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch; and Susan Davis, founding member of the West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals, on January 22, 2008.

Parts of the guidelines were then further revised to reflect the concerns mentioned during that conference call. And some of the current guidelines were explained further. It was discovered that although some inspectors have been using the current guidelines to make tipping of exotic dancers illegal in BC, tipping is actually quite legal and there are no regulations that prohibit it.

Susan Davis and Trina Ricketts asked that a memo be sent to all inspectors clarifying this one point, but their request was declined.

Who “We” Are

This report was written by Trina Ricketts. Trina is founder of The Naked Truth – www.nakedtruth.ca – a resource and advocacy website for exotic dancers, the same community that holds the highly publicized and controversial annual Exotic Dancers for Cancer fundraising stripathon. Trina is also a member of the West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals.

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 following revisions.

This project was completed with no funding whatsoever. Please consider how important these revisions are to our community that we would volunteer to spend so many hours working on them.

Proposed Revisions

There are three parts to the specific section pertaining to the exotic entertainment industry (hereafter referred to as “the guidelines”). These are not separated or numbered in the guidelines, but we have separated them for the purposes of this report to make it easier to read and understand.

Part 1

The guidelines start off with definitions of stripper, exotic dancer, and adult-oriented entertainer. The definitions used here do not reflect the definitions widely used by industry members themselves. While it was pointed out by Kari Toovey (Policy Analyst) that the definitions are not relevant to the guidelines, it is important to us that we are defined correctly in a public document.

Current Definition: A stripper is an entertainer who strips off clothing during a performance; an exotic dancer is a performer who does not necessarily strip clothing during a performance. An adult-oriented performer is an entertainer who performs adult dramatic, artistic or other types of adult-oriented activities. (Belly dancers are not considered adult-oriented performers.)

Proposed Revision: An exotic and/or adult-oriented entertainer is a performer who:
- Strips off clothing during a performance and/or
- Performs adult dramatic, artistic, or other types of adult-oriented activities
(Belly dancers are not considered adult-oriented performers.)

Part 2

Current Regulation: [entertainers]…must wear appropriate clothing while walking through the audience, both before and after performances. This clothing must not be part of their stage costume.

This rule is unrealistic because entertainers will need to access the stage in costume, therefore they wear their costumes while walking through the audience before performances, except where clubs have entrances directly to the stage from somewhere outside the boundaries of the public. The belief that this guideline is needed to protect dancers from audience members is unfounded.

Proposed Revision: The entertainers must wear clothing while walking through the audience, both before and after performances – this includes clothing that is considered their stage costume.



Current Regulation: Performances must be confined to the stage or other approved areas (these areas will be noted on your liquor licence). No performing is allowed in the audience area.

We further defined “performances” in our revision and made performing clothed performances in the audience area allowed. It is common in many clubs all over the world to have what are called “table dances” which are fully-clothed (meaning the genitals and breasts are completely covered), non-contact dances at their tables. These kinds of dances are an added income generator for entertainers. They do not require nudity or contact, and therefore can be quite preferable to entertainers who want to earn extra money without taking off their clothes. We also do not want to see nude performances occurring in and amongst the “audience area.”

Proposed Revision: Full nudity (meaning the exposure of breasts and/or genitals) must be confined to the stage or other approved areas (these areas will be noted on your liquor license). No nude performing is allowed in the audience area, however, fully clothed (meaning the breasts and genitals are covered), non-contact (no physical contact between the dancer and the patron) dances – called “table dances”– are permitted at the discretion of the entertainer.



Current Regulation: Animals may not form part of a performance, and are not permitted as entertainment except as approved by the general manager.

We left this regulation as it is.

Current Regulation: The exotic dancers / strippers may not act as servers or hold any other employment position in your establishment while they are also working for you as entertainers.

There does not seem to be a reason why this rule would constitute a safety issue or otherwise. Since many exotic entertainers will transition into serving when leaving the industry, this has historically been an avenue for that purpose. It also provides employment opportunities for exotic entertainers who start school or have families, and are not at liberty to travel like most dancers. Furthermore, we wonder why this rule applies specifically to entertainers defined as “strippers” or “exotic dancers”, but not to “adult-oriented performers.” If this regulation is an attempt to outlaw topless servers, it makes no sense. Strip clubs that have had “dancing servers” in the past did not have them serving topless. And many private events held in liquor licensed establishments do occasionally hire women to act as topless servers – so this guideline seems not to have impacted that issue in any way.

Proposed Revision: Entertainers may act as servers or hold other positions of employment in your establishment while they are working as entertainers. They will abide by the LCB rules for each position concurrently when holding multiple positions.

We also added a few rules to this section.

Proposed Addition #1: Customers are not permitted on the stage. Nor are they permitted to initiate contact with dancers from the audience during a performance. However, dancers are permitted to take tips from patrons.

The key here is that the contact is initiated by the entertainer with her permission/approval, and ensures the safety of the entertainer. As you will see in Part 3, there are currently regulations in place that make tipping the dancer open to interpretation by individual inspectors. Many clubs have rules against tipping the dancers for fear of having their clubs closed down.

Proposed Addition #2: Entertainers are permitted to distribute promotional items, such as posters, to customers in the course of and following a performance. Likewise, customers are permitted to tip dancers and retrieve clothing and/or props associated with the entertainer’s performance if those items fall off the stage. However, customers are not permitted to place anything else on the stage, or otherwise interfere in a way that might hinder the performance or create a safety hazard for the entertainer.

This proposed addition is very specific to the industry. Exotic dancers market their businesses with promotional items such as posters and key chains. Because of the ambiguity of the current regulations, individual inspectors could interpret them to the detriment of the club and safe work spaces for dancers. Therefore, we wanted to be as specific as possible to avoid any misinterpretations in the future.

Proposed Addition #3: Surveillance cameras are mandatory in all private show / VIP booths.

We wanted to include this in the new regulations to ensure the health and safety of the dancers, decrease the likelihood of violence towards the dancers by customers, and to deter dancers from breaking contact laws. We are determined to ensure that BC continues to be a non-contact province where exotic dancing is concerned and dancers continue to be paid for their stage shows. The cameras may also provide a way for police and liquor inspectors to monitor the dancer’s activities so that we won’t have officials walking in uninvited on the dancers while they are doing private shows. We consider the latter kind of enforcement to be sexual harassment.

We are concerned, however, that the cameras could be used against us. For instance, it can be hard to determine if actual contact is taking place since most dances occur in close quarters. There may be only inches separating the dancer from the customer, but contact is NOT occurring. Depending on the angle of the camera, contact may be difficult to determine. Due to the issue of inspectors barging into VIP booths unannounced and the ambiguity a camera may portray regarding contact, we feel that further work should be done creating enforcement policies and procedures for inspectors when specifically interacting with exotic dancers.

Part 3

Current Regulation: Exotic dancers / strippers / adult-oriented performers may not: engage in live, realistic or simulated sex acts, or in any acts involving coercion or violence, either simulated or real.

The nature of the exotic entertainment industry is to provide a platonic sexual outlet for patrons through sensual dance and fantasy. This in itself makes this particular rule confusing – what would each inspector consider realistic or simulated sex acts? For instance, would it be okay for an exotic entertainer to squeeze her breasts together, or is this a simulated sex act? Are exotic entertainers permitted to wiggle their bottoms suggestively, or would this be an infraction? Similarly in relation to the reference to violence, many theme shows involve bondage types of costumes and props – a particularly popular theme, in all honesty. Are themes like this considered infractions? It is unclear what exactly this rule is trying to accomplish. Our proposed revision assumes that this rule is meant to ensure safety of the customers watching the shows.

Proposed Revision: Entertainers may not: Make contact with audience members in any way that might cause them bodily harm.

Current Regulations: [Entertainers] may not:

-insert any object into, or extract any object from, the vagina or anus

-urinate or defecate while performing


-consume liquor immediately prior to a performance, during a performance or between performances

We are quite happy with these regulations the way they are.

Current Regulations: Exotic dancers / strippers / adult-oriented performers may not:

-touch, share food and beverages, or pass objects to members of the audience
-touch or share food and beverages with other performers

Likewise to earlier rules, we wonder how the rules about sharing food and beverages came into effect. Is this a method to protect patrons and fellow entertainers from “disease-ridden” exotic dancers? Is that the assumption behind such rules? If so, then we feel that the assumption is insulting and degrading to exotic entertainers, and inappropriate in a government publication. If there is a valid and logical reason for creating such rules, then the guide should include specific information to ensure that the rules are understood and abided by.

Furthermore, the casual inclusion of the phrase “or pass objects to members of the audience” has led to many discretionary practices by individual liquor inspectors. While it does not refer directly to the passing of objects from customers to entertainers, many clubs have been told that dancers are not to take tips from customers otherwise they are in violation of this rule. This creates obvious problems in an industry that historically has had a tipping component. Entertainers’ incomes suffer for this rule, and customers are confused. This rule also negates the possibility of entertainers handing out posters or other promotional materials to patrons, which in turn undermines the entertainer’s ability to market her shows and build customer retention.

Proposed Revisions: We suggest that these rules be omitted from the guidelines because they serve no useful purpose and, in fact, are harmful to exotic dancers.

Current Regulation: Exotic dancers / strippers / adult-oriented performers may not: deliberately engage a patron(s) in an adult-oriented performance or activity.

As you can see, this particular rule is very vague. Is not the very nature of a patron sitting down in a strip club to watch entertainers perform nude “an adult-oriented activity”? Does this rule also refer to the handing out of posters or acceptance of tips? Does this require that exotic entertainers not make eye contact or smile at the customers, so as not to “engage” them?

Proposed Revision: We suggest that this rule be omitted from the guidelines since we have also made provisions for the addition of rules that are more specific and address any concerns around activities between customers and exotic dancers.

Conclusion

The proposed revisions are based on consistent themes that came up in our discussions and are based on these following themes:

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.

4) A desire to strengthen the exotic entertainment industry by providing alternative income generating possibilities (dancing servers, table dances, tipping) which will also draw more patrons into the clubs. Strengthening this industry is a key element in providing safe work spaces for women and reducing women’s reliance on survival sex work – work that has led to the disappearance and murder of many women in Vancouver and across British Columbia.

It is our hope that the needs and desires of our community will be respected and these revisions enacted. We believe that we have ensured that any and all concerns that officials may have regarding our industry have been addressed in our revisions. If we have missed anything, we ask that we be consulted before any decision is made so that we can ensure there are no misunderstandings.

We realize that the current regulations were not created to deliberately harm us. But we also realize that our industry is a mystery to most people. It is our intention to bring understanding and accuracy to policies that impact us as citizens of this province.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


4 comments:

MVL said...

Thanks for sharing these proposed revisions with us.

It seems to me that definitions and delineation of exotic entertainment are always going to be problematic - it's nature is part artistic and part sexual and keeping the two in an acceptable stasis is a continuing difficulty.

I spoke with my liquor inspector over coffee in August and he said the department was developing another enforcement model for the LCA. It'll be interesting to see what it is and how it will affect the daily operations of pubs (such as the one I manage) and clubs with exotic entertainment.

Good luck with your proposed changes!

MVL

Annie Temple said...

Thank YOU for taking an interest! I wanted to qualify one thing for me writing these revisions. Others input was also used to come up with them but for this one point, I'm speaking only for myself. While I don't begrudge any dancer making some extra coin doing "extras" - to each her own - I just feel it's important that there are options that don't include sexual favors. For me Exotic Dance was that option. If contact dances were the status quo, I wouldn't have been comfortable getting into the industry when I did. I want other women to be able to make the same choice I did. It benefited me incredibly.

Tyler said...

The Private (or VIP) shows with the security cameras. I take it business would decline if the customer was on camera?

I've never had a private dance so I can't tell you what might go on behind closed doors/curtains though I have heard a couple stories from friends who dance and a couple of them will never do a vip show again.

Now the sharing of food/drinks I could see being something to help ensure the safety of a dancer. Though most dancers I would assume would purchase their own drinks or have the customer order their drink through a waitress so that it lessens something being 'slipped' into it?

Good revisions on the proposals though making them not as vague as they seem to be with what you posted.

Annie Temple said...

RE: cameras in the vip booths - at least when I was dancing, that was a given in most clubs. As I said earlier in the post, the revisions actually wouldn't impact VIP rooms that are outside the service area. That particular revision was strongly advised by a club manager and an agent to ensure safety of the dancers and to negate the likelihood of police or liquor inspectors barging in on a private dance.