Seattle bar raids draw massive coverage

by Joe Siegel

A series of raids on gay clubs in downtown Seattle has been one of the top stories in LGBTQ media.

Benny Loy, editor of SGN

According to the Seattle Gay News (SGN), “The enforcement actions took place on the nights of Friday, January 26, and Saturday, January 27. The blog Capitol Hill Seattle reported that the Cuff Complex, the Eagle, Massive, Neighbours, and Queer/Bar were among the targeted establishments.”

“Called ‘raids’ by bar owners on social media, the patrols were described by Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) Chair David Postman as business as usual, and not part of a targeted effort to crack down on Queer spaces,” the newspaper reported. “Despite these assurances, however, the LCB and JET (Seattle’s Joint Enforcement Team) have significantly shaken the Queer community’s sense of safety and trust in their leadership. The controversy reflects long-standing and historical tensions between bar owners and their patrons on one side and law enforcement on the other, most concerning lewd conduct. The weekend’s LCB and JET exercises resulted in reports of such alleged violations.”

“I suspect our community is being singled out, but I’m waiting for more information to say for sure,” said Benny Loy, editor of SGN. “If this wasn’t a case of discrimination, then it is a reason to examine our laws regarding employee/patron dress in bars and how these ‘enforcement actions’ are conducted.”

Loy believes the Seattle bar raids may not be an anomaly.

“I would not be surprised if raids continued and spread to other cities,” Loy continued. “It is a common tactic to target the LGBTQ community through lewd conduct laws, as we’ve seen with legislation against the Trans and drag community in other states.”

Seattle LGBTQ blog The Stranger reported: “Angry LGBTQ bar and club owners authored a swift open letter accusing the LCB and JET of targeting them with archaic lewd conduct regulations and called for a full investigation.”

“Kevin Kauer, owner of Massive on (Seattle’s gay neighborhood) Capitol Hill, said he’s seen enforcement target queer bars in aggressive and passive ways in his two decades of experience in nightlife. He said it was nearly impossible to run an LGBTQ nightlife environment under current conditions, and impossible to know how strictly officers will enforce policy since we’re such an easy target,” The Stranger reported.

National LGBTQ publication The Advocate covered the raids in a January 30 story by Christopher Wiggins. The headline stated: “Outrage in Seattle after ‘raids’ of several gay bars citing ‘lewd conduct’ laws.”

LGBTQ+ advocates in Washington state are outraged after a string of inspections over the weekend included LGBTQ+ establishments that were cited for how patrons were dressed,” The Advocate reported. “Two popular gay leather bars in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood faced unexpected scrutiny from authorities on Friday and Saturday evening, leading to a wave of concern and outrage within the LGBTQ+ community. The Cuff Complex and the Seattle Eagle were subjected to what owners describe as raids, resulting in ‘lewd conduct’ violations over patrons’ clothing choices.”

The bar raids were also covered in more mainstream media outlets, including the Seattle Times, the local daily.

“Members of the LGBTQ caucus in the legislature have expressed frustration about LCB’s action, and plan to amend Senate Bill 6105 to repeal the administrative code that allows it,” the Seattle Times reported. “The bill proposes creating additional worker protections at adult entertainment establishments like strip clubs.”

“I was surprised and disappointed to hear about this action by the (LCB),” State Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), a member of the caucus, said in an email. “… In the state of Washington, we expect better from our government.”

In a statement, Mayor Bruce Harrell said, “Under my administration, we will not target people or communities based on their sexuality or any other protected class.”

Volume 25
Issue 11

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *