WAPATO, Wash. — Strip clubs will be heavily regulated in this rural Lower Valley town.
On Monday night, the City Council approved two ordinances — one that doesn’t allow strip clubs within 500 feet of schools, churches and parks, and another that requires owners of such businesses and their employees to acquire adult entertainment licenses from the city.
Previously, the council was set to choose between the two ordinances — one focusing on zoning and the other on licenses — but decided to adopt them both, said Mayor Jesse Farias.
In addition, the council modified the zoning ordinance to require strip clubs be placed 500 feet or more away from schools, parks and churches rather than the 1,000-foot limit that was in the original draft.
Farias said the council reduced the distance to mirror state liquor laws.
“They thought it was more fair and that it was more aligned with the (state) Liquor Control Board,” he said.
There are a slew of requirements of how a strip club should operate under the licensing ordinance. Business owners and their employees must have clean backgrounds. Dancers must not come into contact with patrons. Business owners must provide police and fire officials with a diagram of the building’s floor layout that defines the area dancers will perform, where patrons will sit and where the manager’s office will be located. Annual license fees will cost owners $700 and each employee $100.
State law regards topless dancing as a form of expression and protects such businesses from being zoned out of existence. The 1,000-foot requirement in Wapato’s original ordinance would have left no room in this 1.78-square-mile city for a strip club.
Only one city in the state — Woodway, north of Seattle — was successful in banning adult entertainment altogether. Completely residential, that small city has no areas zoned for business.
Farias said the council began looking at drafting laws governing adult entertainment after the owner of Martinez Sports Bar at 116 W. Second St. said he wanted to start a strip club. The bar is adjacent to the Filipino Community Hall and the Wapato Buddhist Church.
Bar owner Ignacio Martinez didn’t return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Farias said he didn’t have an opinion on whether such businesses should operate in such a small city.
“As long as they follow the ordinance that has been enacted,” he said.
• Phil Ferolito can be reached at 509-577-7749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.