Well, that was fast.
After raiding four gay bars last week and finding nothing but a nipple and jockstraps, the Liquor and Cannabis Board has paused enforcement of its lewd conduct rules, according to a signed letter sent to state officials.
The Board also paused participation in Seattle’s Joint Enforcement Team, a coalition of police, fire, and other city departments, and will reopen rulemaking to amend or repeal the lewd conduct violation regulations.
The Board also said it won’t issue citations for anything they saw over the weekend—including a bartender’s exposed nipple at The Cuff Complex and jockstraps seen at The Seattle Eagle—and it will review its past practices and policies, including the use of photographs as evidence.
The Board wrote that it is working with the LGBTQ caucus and legislative committees to “try to find solutions through legislation that further our mutual efforts.”
LCB staff will present the board with a proposal to change the rules next week at a February 6 caucus. The board will vote on those changes at a meeting the week after.
The LCB wrote that it pledged to “do better,” as community members asked them to do at a Wednesday board meeting, and fundamental change won’t happen without the community’s participation.
“Since LCB’s participation last week with the City of Seattle Joint Enforcement Team (JET) on Capitol Hill and additional enforcement work Saturday at some historically gay venues in the greater Seattle area, the agency has become acutely aware of the fear and alarm it raised within the LGBTQ+ community,” the letter read. “At Wednesday’s Board meeting and in many private conversations, we heard strong objections to our actions. The community expressed concerns that LGBTQ+ venues are being targeted and that the LCB did not understand the troubling history of such enforcement or the value of these clubs as a safe place for people who often face discrimination, threats, and violence.”
The story of police, fire, and the LCB walking into a bar(s) became national news this week.
At 12:30 on Saturday morning, a 10-member JET crew filed into Cuff, according to owner Joey Burgess. They came in with flashlights, scaring some patrons who left in a hurry. The JET later entered Neighbours Nightclub and The Lumberyard. Saturday night, two LCB officials marched into the Eagle at 11:30 pm and took photos of customers. Of the 18 places the LCB inspected, four were gay bars.
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.
On Wednesday, angry queers lambasted the Board for its actions.
Chair David Postman began the meeting saying the LCB was just enforcing the law, and pushing back against the term “raids,” but he ended the conversation with an apology.
“The question of whether it was a raid or not, it’s not for me to say,” he said Wednesday.
This is a developing story. We’ll have more for you in the morning.