Toronto City Council is set to debate new regulations governing the no-touch rule at local strip clubs.

City licencing committee dances around new rules for strip clubs

Toronto’s Licensing and Standards Committee met Friday to discuss changes in regulations that govern adult entertainment parlours.

Tracy Cook, Executive Director, Municipal Licensing Standards Committee, presented the proposed amendments to the current bylaws governing the operation of strip clubs. The purpose is to better protect the performers at these establishments.

The proposed changes outlined in an 84-page summary report included amendments to the “no-touch” rule, municipal licencing for dancers and security, new rules pertaining to the use of security cameras and regulations for the construction and design of private dance rooms.

“What we’re dealing with today, really, we’re regulating based on the health, safety and well being and protection of people… of dancers, of patrons and everyone else,” said Councillor Glen De Baeremaeker, Ward 38.

Many in the adult entertainment industry, however, were less than impressed with the proposals. Adam M. Vassos, barrister and solicitor representing the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada, said despite promises made by the committee that industry would be involved in the discussion, their interests have been ignored.

“We made eight recommendations on behalf of the association in respect to what we were looking for in terms of changes and modifications to the amendments [the committee] had made,” Vassos said.

“Much to our displeasure, when we looked at that final report, the association felt that none of the eight recommendations that it made to staff were incorporated into the final report.”

One issue raised by multiple legal representatives and club owners, including Tim Lambrinos, Executive Director, Adult Entertainment Association of Canada, was the use of security cameras. Currently, cameras cannot be placed in washrooms, change rooms, or any ‘entertainment areas’.

“The problem with banning it from the designated entertainment area is it’s inclusive of the whole bar area,” Lambrinos says. “So this, technically, would ban them from the whole club.”

This restricts the club’s ability to keep any video security inside the establishment should it be useful to police.

The committee expressed concern over the potential use of the footage; it could be placed online or used as a form of blackmail later in the dancer’s life.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t trust any of the clubs I work with not to do that,” said a local exotic dancer who only wanted to be identified as Lilith. “You don’t want the stuff you do videoed, even if you’re not doing anything ‘extra’. It would make me uncomfortable.”

In the end, the committee carried two motions: One, to discuss further with the industry about governing the use of photographic equipment. Two, to include the consideration of restricting cameras to only the entrances and exits of the clubs.

De Baeremaeker also questioned the “un-obstructed view” policy which requires at least one side of any private dance booth to be open and viewable; this can be done with a glass door, partially closed curtain or an opaque wall no higher than four feet.

De Baeremaeker felt that four feet still hid potentially too many ‘activities’ that could happen below the waist: “Most people’s laps are lower than four feet,” he said.

“Our intent is to allow these rooms with one full side that is clearly visible so that the entertainer’s safety is not jeopardized,” Cook responded. “We felt the four feet would accomplish that.”

Councillor Glory Luby, Ward 4, told the committee: “I have a very basic, basic understanding; what’s in those rooms?”

Cook explained the basic setup of the booths.

“Why do they need these booths?” Luby responded. “If we’re worried about the safety and cutting out all of the prostitution …  why don’t they just take the things out?”

Cook put the question to the floor and many speakers, such as dancer Nicole Kiss and owner of the Fairbanks Hotel, Nancy So, stepped up to explain how the exotic dancing works. Business hours, pay, what happens during private dances and how much a dancer makes working a private booth were covered.

At the end of the six-hour meeting, the committee agreed to amend the no-touch rule, allowing for innocuous contact, such as handshakes, however those club owners present urged the committee to come up with a clearer definition.

As for the licencing of dancers, the committee felt it should keep a government licencing system rather than dancers registering their personal information solely with individual club owners. Luby moved to carry out informal discussions with other municipalities to try and develop harmonized licencing system, rather than an individual licences and fees for every municipality.

The recommendations will be considered by City Council on October 30.