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Bill would allow alcohol in adult establishments

Washington currently has the fewest adult entertainment establishments per capita in the country. The reason? They are not allowed to serve alcohol.

But if a bill in the state Legislature wins approval, Washington could soon join the rest of the country in allowing alcohol sales in strip clubs. Adult dancers say if this change is approved, workplace security should be required.

"Washington State has had a war on strip clubs for a long time, and that is the reason why we have bikini barista stands," an adult dancer said outside of a hearing room in Olympia.

SB 6105, also known as the Strippers Bill of Rights, makes it legal to serve alcohol in adult entertainment establishments and requires improved security for employees. The bill requires all staff be trained for "first-aid, conflict de-escalation, and identifying and preventing human trafficking, sexual harassment, discrimination and assault."

Prime sponsor Rebecca Saldana (D-Seattle) says this bill is one of her primary focuses this legislative session. When the dancers brought this problem to her, she said it was a no-brainer to help.

"Dancers are a marginalized workforce, partly because we are sex workers and partly because we are mostly of minority demographics [we are] ultimately deemed unworthy of fundamental rights," said Madison Zack-Wu, a dancer and campaign manager for adult entertainment workers. "Being denied rights and financial stability in our work makes us more vulnerable to coercion and trafficking."

Many dancers say alcohol sales will make their work much more lucrative. Many concur that this line of work has been life-changing, allowing them to be debt-free, support their families and sometimes manage chronic illness.

Eva Bhagwandin quit dancing after a man and his friends became abusive when his credit card was declined. The only other staff member present was a new waitress. She said other dancers knew this group of men for similar offenses.

"This never would have happened if customer blacklists were actually maintained and followed or we had the mandatory security and staff training that SB 6105 requires," Bhagwandin said.

No one testified against this bill, but Rebekah Fonden, a survivor of human sex trafficking, applauded the safety measures in the bill but said she disagrees with weakened rules about how close dancers can be to customers.

The bill does not limit how close customers can get, but it does prohibit touching.