EDITOR’S NOTE: Putting strip clubs in their place

Someone might argue that our “Question of the Week” this week was a trick question: “Is it right that a city can’t prevent a strip club from locating in a city?” (You really have to think about the phrasing, too.)

Someone might argue that our “Question of the Week” this week was a trick question:

“Is it right that a city can’t prevent a strip club from locating in a city?” (You really have to think about the phrasing, too.)

Constitutionally, a city must allow a place for adult uses to locate. It’s a free-speech issue, even if many (most) find the issue distasteful.

The poll results as of Wednesday were 47 percent “yes” and 52 percent “no.”

You would think the “no” vote would have been bigger, meaning a city should be able keep strip clubs at bay. But many understand that when we prohibit one form of expression, who’s to say other forms won’t come under assault, too.

Still, I’ve received phone calls wondering what can be done to stop the Club SinRock from opening near Interstate 405. Nothing is the answer.

Callers express dismay at what “strip club” will mean to the city’s image and who it will attract to Renton and with what motives. Just remember, the SinRock sign is most visible to travelers coming from such Eastside cities as Bellevue headed south on I-405. Someone should poll from where the patrons of the “gentleman’s club” herald.

Nah, Renton’s image is just fine. Remember that 25 years ago the city fought and won THE key U.S. Supreme Court battle that upheld a city’s right to use land-use zoning to locate adult theaters away from family friendly environs.

I guess what bothers me more is that the city hasn’t reviewed its adult-use ordinance in that intervening quarter-century. Sure, this was Renton’s first strip club, so perhaps there was no reason to do so earlier. The city had picked the right area for such clubs, an industrial and commercial area away from schools and churches and day cares. But to no one’s surprise that area has changed and the law needs to change to reflect the reality of Renton’s Valley area.

The city now is moving forward quickly to do that review, imposing a moratorium on new adult uses for six months while it decides an appropriate place for adult uses. The City Council is holding a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday at its chambers on the moratorium. The hearing is required by law, but the moratorium is in effect.

That’s not the venue to stop Club SinRock. But I suspect some might take the hearing as a chance to rail against the strip club. It IS the venue to make your voice heard about the most appropriate place for adult uses. The city must allow for them.

In the case of Club SinRock, at least take heart that the city held the owners’ feet to the fire in meeting every piece of the city’s building regulations. Initially, the city rejected the strip club’s building permit.

The city is requiring a sprinkler system, required by the fire code and agreed to by the owners. But in asking for help from experts, club partner Tim Lyons wrote that “now they have recently brought up several upgrade or conforming issues that are (sic) frankly could be cost prohibitive.”

“This is project is off track and needs immediate attention,” Lyons wrote. (I obtained the project files through a public-records request to the City of Renton.)

Lyons said in an interview with me that the city made him jump through every hoop. Good. The Police Department found the two managers’ criminal records are clean. Even a seismic inspection was done, resulting in a recommendation to strap the roof onto the building, the survivor of two major quakes.

Liquor is banned but only because the state won’t allow its sale where lewd conduct is permitted..

In the end, the city issued the building permit and Club SinRock is going to open soon. That sign is already up. And, I guess, by writing about this club I am acting as its PR agent.

The “entertainers” (about 15 as of earlier this week) have already started paying their $75 license fee to, uh, dance with nothing on. Finishing touches are being put on the Vegas-style decor.

And, an unhappy Mayor Denis Law is already thinking about what more the city can do through the criminal code and the courts to keep patrons and workers of such clubs under control. That he can do without Supreme Court approval.

Renton may have to put up with lewd behavior; but it doesn’t have to put up with criminal behavior.


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