Lawmakers consider new regulations aimed at protecting adult entertainers statewide

OLYMPIA, Wash. — SB 5614 is described as “an act relating to adult entertainment establishments.”

While the description is general, the bill offers multiple regulations intended to protect the finances and safety of adult entertainers.

“Strippers are workers, and they deserve to work equitably, safely, and without stigmatization,” said Madison Zack-Wu, the campaign manager for “Strippers are Workers,” during a House committee hearing on Wednesday.

Zack-Wu was one of 14 concerned citizens who offered to testify in support of SB 5614 in front of the House Committee on Labor and Workplace Standards on Wednesday.

Not a single citizen testified against the bill. Three others signed up with neither “pro” nor “con” positions.

SB 5614 would require strip clubs to eliminate “back rent,” which is debt dancers owe employers due to unpaid “house fees.”

Most dancers are independent contractors and pay a house fee to a club to perform. If a dancer does not make enough money to pay the house fee, the unpaid fees become debt.

Aubrey Watkins, a former Seattle-area dancer and SAW member, said a club once tried charging her $5,000 for unpaid debt. She says when she asked for paperwork on what the debt was based on, there wasn’t any available.

“It was my word against theirs,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “It’s used as a form of power.”

The bill would also place a 30% limit on fees charged by clubs, which would be based on the entertainer’s profits.

SB 5614 would also legalize alcohol sales in strip clubs.

“Banning alcohol in strip clubs does not protect against drunk men,” Makayla, a Seattle-area dancer, said on Wednesday. “They arrive drunk all the time.”

Several dancers also argued that legalizing alcohol sales in strip clubs would broaden financial burdens.

“Right now, with the alcohol ban, dancers are the only source of profit for clubs,” Zack-Wu said.

The bill would also require the state to develop workplace training for workers, including de-escalation training and first aid.

It would also require clubs to install panic buttons in private rooms, bathrooms, and dressing rooms. Dancers would be able to press the button if they needed assistance.

SB 5614 is scheduled for an executive session in the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards on Friday, March 17.