Strip club ‘service’ same as prostitution, argues local women’s advocate

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In a debate that seems to never end, city politicians again argued about how to proceed with strip club licences in London Tuesday.

Sections of the revised business licensing bylaw that apply to strip club and body rub parlours — the city is tackling parts of the bylaw before an omnibus review and public meeting — were up for debate, including a “no touching” rule.

“In simple language, you can go to a strip club, you can have some drinks, you can look, but you can’t touch,” chief bylaw officer Orest Katolyk told the community and protective services committee during a public meeting.

It’s already part of the current bylaw, and Katolyk said the city has had success taking venues that violate the rule to court. But it drew complaints from lawyers representing the city’s strip clubs, who said a no-touching rule isn’t fair.

“Lap dancing is a form of service, a performance, that is undertaken both by the entertainer and the patron,” lawyer Theresa Simone said.

She noted the staff report identifies lap dancing as a “service offered in many live entertainment parlours.”

“You cannot have a recognition that touching . . . takes place, and then have a prohibition on touching,” Simone said, calling it unconstitutional.

But a London women’s advocate disagreed, arguing the city’s licensing of businesses where lap dances are given runs contrary to federal legislation on prostitution.

“It’s very clear what constitutes a sexual service or an act of prostitution, and that includes lap dancing,” said Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre. “It’s just common sense. What’s going on . . . is exactly what’s outlined in the definition of prostitution, and it’s illegal.”

Walker said the city is at a “fork in the road,” suggesting staff review the city’s licensing for compliance with federal legislation, lest it open the city to a constitutional challenge.

Another public participation meeting dealing with all parts of the business licensing bylaw is scheduled for Oct. 4. 

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