Carnal Cabaret

Strippers who go the distance


To enforce Spokane County, Washington's dreaded Cabaret Ordinance, local cops mounted a sting operation in August that led to the arrest of five strippers and the manager of the Déjà Vu strip club on misdemeanor charges.

The girls were charged with violating the ordinance's four-foot "buffer zone"—the distance the law requires between strippers and patrons—by performing private lap dances on the undercover cops and others in exchange for cash. In an odd twist to the story, the cops left the club after their lap dances, then returned to make the arrests wearing masks to avoid being recognized in future stings.

Outrage followed. In a satirical piece for the local Spokesman-Review, columnist Doug Clark defended the officers against vice charges. "Many of you don't understand the kind of pressure these men were up against," he chided readers. As for the controversial provision of the 1997 cabaret law, Clark said he thanks God "every day for the Four-Foot Buffer Zone."

The comments on the Spokesman-Review's Web site and letters page ran heavily in favor of the strippers. Residents suggested that the law enforcement budget was too large, that police were kowtowing to the religious right, and even that such an operation was evidence that "the terrorists will win."

Cpl. Dave Reagan, spokesman for the sheriff's department, acknowledges that the community reaction has been "mixed" at best, with the pro?lap dance faction the more vocal. But he insisted that "we only do this type of enforcement at the request or behest of neighboring businesses or government officials in that area"—in this case, the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce. Reagan indicated that the sheriff's office will lay off the Déjà Vu club for a while and "go on about other things."