COMMENTARY: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
August 7, 2002

18 Year Old Strippers in City Bars

Since 1973, my family trust has held a long-term ground lease with the corporation that operates Club Paradise. Because of this, I realize some may feel I'm a flawed messenger. So be it, because my message is not flawed. What I'm about to say is true and is backed by laws that are presently in force. Shoot the messenger if you please, but Iím still gonna do what I do best Ė stir the pot.

That said, Iím astounded by Mayor Goodmanís proposal to ignore pleas from Metro and Clark County to adapt a uniform code to prevent 18 year olds from working in the topless trade. I feel Iím qualified to take this stand because I understand the workings of city government first hand, I am a landlord of a gentleman's club, and most importantly, Iím the father of four daughters.

When asked about the current city code regarding teenagers stripping in topless bars, Mayor Oscar Goodman said, "Our ordinance is perfect." The Mayor also made the following amazing statements: "There's no prostitution taking place, and if there was, they should arrest them, not make some big fuss as to what some 18-year-old girl is doing to make a living." "I think anything that's legal should be here," said the Mayor.

He made these statements in the face of numerous Las Vegas Tribune front page stories followed by media reports describing beatings, prostitution, robberies, and a wrongful death at one of the city's foremost topless bars, a bar that does not share a sister bar in the county and therefore stands to benefit the most from the county's new ordinance.

OK, Mayor, lets take at look at the laws you call "perfect" and see if they allow teenagers to hustle champagne and lap dances in the lounge seating area, or go behind closed doors in private VIP rooms in your cityís topless bars?

Las Vegas Municipal Code--6.35.100--Erotic dance establishment regulations states:

"(E) No patron under the age of twenty-one shall be admitted to an alcoholic erotic dance establishment. (H) Dancing shall take place within an area which is visible immediately upon entrance to the establishment premisesÖ. Dance areas must not be obscured by any curtain or door that restricts view from one of the above-described areas. Patrons will not be allowed to enter private rooms with dancers. (I) No dancer shall fondle or caress any patron, and no patron shall fondle or caress any dancer."

Every VIP room in the city is "private," has doors, and allows patrons to enter with teenage dancers. This recently written law indicates that such rooms are in direct violation of 6.35.100.

Then thereís Las Vegas Municipal Code-10.56.010--Saloons and similar places--Presence--Performer permits:

"It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of twenty-one years to visit, frequent, be present in or loiter around any saloon, gambling house, barroom, cigar store or house of ill fame; provided, however, that a minor or minors under proper adult supervision may entertain or perform in lounges upon the securing of a permit from the Sheriff of the Metropolitan Police Department or his designee. Said permit shall allow a minor or minors in such lounge only while in the act of entertaining or performing in the presence of said adult supervisor."

This is the main law that the city clubs most rely on to protect their "right" to have teen strippers. It was written in 1911 when prostitution was legal in Las Vegas. It requires that after a minor stops "entertaining" or "performing," they must leave the "lounge." Today, teens are illegally required by club owners to solicit drinks and lap dances from patrons in the lounge area. Teens certainly cannot be considered as "entertaining" or "performing" when they are hustling money off-stage in open violation of LVMC 10.56.010. Furthermore, who are these "adult supervisors" who let teens mingle with the crowd - then vanish into the VIP room? Perhaps, this law is "perfect" because it is so antiquated that it stopped being enforced in the city limits decades ago. No wonder the county (prematurely) enacted new laws. Commissioners couldn't believe the city would refuse to go along!

Then there is state law NRS 202.060 - Saloonkeeper allowing minor to remain in establishment:

"Any proprietor, keeper or manager of a saloon or resort where spirituous, malt or fermented liquors or wines are sold, who shall, knowingly, allow or permit any person under the age of 21 years to remain therein shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500."

When saloonkeepers allow teenage strippers to step down from the stage, "remain" in the establishment where alcohol is being sold and solicit sale of drinks or a lap dance, this law is also being violated.

"We're an adult community, an adult playland," Goodman said. "Let's not pretend to be something we're not."

Oscar, "weíre not" a city of lawlessness. To do what you propose would violate existing city ordinances.

Then the Mayor said, "When you're 18, you're allowed to die for your country, so why can't some young lady or young man perform?"

Good point Oscar, but why are 18 year old males prohibited from sitting in the audience? If you feel so strongly about their rights, don't you think all 18 years olds should be allowed  in topless bars whether they strip or not? Your proposal discriminates against underage males who would like to sit at the bar and see 18 year old girls "perform." Oscar, you can't have it both ways!

AGE is the ONLY issue I am concerned with. The current city laws make it perfectly clear that teenage dancers are (1) not allowed behind closed doors with patrons, and (2) not allowed to mingle with the crowd (loiter) to solicit lap dances and sell champagne after they leave the stage. The "perfect" law either needs to be drastically changed to accommodate minors, or the prohibition against VIP rooms needs to be enforced. Oscar, you can't have it both ways - again!

In addition to calling the city's laws "perfect," the Mayor's proposal to charge teenagers $200 per year for a business license is also ridiculous and insults our intelligence when so many laws are clearly being broken. Unfortunately, most 18 year olds do not realize that such a license will go on their record for the rest of their lives and may pop up many years from now during a background check for employment outside the topless industry.

Under existing city, county, and state laws, teenagers presently have no place in topless and bottomless bars hustling drinks or trying to "make a living" in VIP rooms behind closed doors. Even without the laws, our youth deserve better during their formative years..

Oscar should either change ALL the laws, or enforce the existing ones equally between the city and county - period! To not do so is an invitation for a Writ of Mandamus to compel the City of Las Vegas to enforce its own ordinances. If a motion for a Writ of Mandamus is filed, and it certainly will be if the Mayor's scheme is approved, taxpayers should not pay expensive private attorneys to defend Oscar's friends in the trade.

Some folks think I'm a prude for taking this stand, but I'm just a conscientious, law-abiding parent trying to do the right thing. I only wish another parent, Oscar Goodman, would do the same. Now, go ahead and shoot the messenger.

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman and Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner. In 1991, the readers of the Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada.
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