London city hall: Politicians vote unanimously to support updated strip club bylaw

Despite some concerns around the rules for adult entertainment venues, a city council committee voted unanimously to support the updated business licensing bylaw on Tuesday night.

In a twist that some would argue mirrored the debate around the bylaw, the doors to the city hall gallery were locked — inadvertently, politicians suggested — and members of the public were barred from re-entering the room to witness the discussion - writes

The committee voted 3-2 to ask staff to investigate the suspiciously locked doors. Politicians apologized profusely, but several told the women in the public gallery that it was an “honest mistake.”

The exclusion is eerily similar to what some activists have been arguing for months — that politicians and city staff haven’t made enough effort to consult Londoners on the front line of this debate, especially current sex workers, who may not be comfortable speaking at city hall.

“I’ve heard specifically from some individuals who feel as though their voices weren’t heard,” Coun. Virginia Ridley said during the debate.

The revision process has been months in the making, and ignited a debate in the community about the licensing rules around strip clubs and body rub parlours in the city — and specifically, a ban against touching between customers and employees in strip clubs.

The updated bylaw, which heads to council next week, retains that no-touch rule.

That pleases some advocates, who argue that allowing sexual touching would fly in the face of federal laws banning the purchase of sex. But other activists, and some current workers, argue the no-touch rule pushes women outside of licensed facilities into dangerous spaces to do their jobs.

Politicians were divided on that argument, too.

Coun. Phil Squire said he understood the concern from workers, but worried about the legal ramifications of removing the no-touch rule.

“The challenge I have is with the legality,” he said.

But others asked why the city needs to regulate touch if it’s already governed by the criminal code.

Some politicians asked to take more time with the portions of the bylaw dealing with adult entertainment venues, lobbying for those rules to be divorced from the rest of the licensing rule book. But with licences under the current bylaw set to expire at the end of the year, staff said that sort of two-pronged approach would create a sticky situation.

George Kotsifas, London’s director of development and compliance services, called it “a considerable challenge.”

But he noted that the updated bylaw doesn’t have to stand forever. Council can request changes at any time.

“The conversation can still continue after the bylaw is passed,” he said.

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