After years of advocacy from strippers, a surge in support from the LGBTQ+ community, and a rally on the Capitol steps that featured pole dancing, on Tuesday night the Washington State House passed a Strippers’ Bill of Rights, 58-36. The bill adds labor protections for strippers, effectively allows strip clubs to sell alcohol, and repeals an antiquated lewd conduct code the cops recently used to raid queer clubs in Seattle.

Somewhat auspiciously, the bill passed shortly after 10 pm, when the House Speaker relaxed the chamber’s own lewd conduct rules by announcing that members could remove their jackets as they continued working into the night. In passing the State House, advocates overcame their largest political hurdle and brought Washington one step closer to joining the civilized world.

If the Governor signs the legislation, the repeal of the state’s lewd conduct rules would free the nipple and the jockstrap at gay bars, allowing the LGBTQ+ community to go-go dance without fear of the goon squad busting in with flashlights and cameras.

The lewd conduct code repeal also allows strips clubs to apply for liquor licenses, such as a tavern license that permits wine and beer sales or a night club license that allows liquor sales after a certain hour. A provision directing the Department of Labor & Industries to work with clubs that apply for liquor licenses appears to add some ballast to that allowance.

In earlier discussions on this bill, the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) requested clear legislative intent from the Legislature to create specific licenses for strip clubs as a way to avoid legal liability. A spokesperson for the agency said the bill the House passed gives them “much less direction regarding alcohol service" than the Senate’s version of the proposal, but the repeal of the lewd conduct rules “probably opens the door to alcohol in the clubs, because there’s no longer a rule that would prohibit alcohol sales.”

A similar version of the strippers’ bill of rights died last year thanks to objections from the House’s temperance caucus, a group of lawmakers who variously raise concerns about the expansion of alcohol access in the state and sex trafficking.

Dancers organized with Strippers Are Workers, a grassroots group that has advocated for the bill for years, maintained that the lack of liquor licenses in clubs led to patrons getting loaded in nearby parking lots before coming in, making consumption difficult to monitor. A 2020 report from the state’s Adult Entertainer Advisory Committee found that booze helps to create a more social and therefore safer environment in clubs. As it turns out, giving people other things to do besides drinking a can of Dr. Pepper while mulling a lap dance greatly improves the vibes.

Ideally, the booze sales will provide revenue to help clubs meet the legislation’s requirements to train staff on new safety measures, provide accessible panic buttons in certain locations, and hire at least one dedicated security guard.

The bill will also cap fees that clubs charge dancers in order to work, known as “house fees,” which will help prevent dancers from starting their shifts in debt and then handing over most of the money they make to club owners.

Rep. Skyler Rude (R-Walla Walla) ultimately opposed the bill, but in his floor commentary he expressed gratitude about the bill capping those high house fees, a practice that just seemed “wrong” to him. And though he only wanted to “modernize” the lewd conduct rules instead of totally repealing them, he also took issue with the logic of a regulation that put more restrictions on peoples’ bodies inside of clubs than just outside of them.

In her floor speech in support of the bill, Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) spoke out against the January queer bar raids, saying they harkened back to 50 years ago, “when we had a different culture here in Washington state, when lifestyles like mine were not accepted, when it was common to prosecute LGBTQ people in our state.”

“This bill is about respect,” she added. “Respect for workers and respect for community. This bill will bring protections in a workplace and for workers that have long been marginalized.”

Madison Zack-Wu, campaign manager for Strippers Are Workers, said, "Dancers have won fundamental labor rights for workers who have been denied those rights for far too long, and we've paved the way to shape spaces that celebrate sexual expression and promote autonomy in much safer environments than ones we currently have. I mean, among other absurdities, strippers can now accept tips while stripping without the threat of arrest. It's a real win."