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Seattle’s Gay Bars Raided Over “Lewd Conduct”

Lewd conduct! At a bar!

by Hayden
The Cuff bar (from outside)

It’s 2024, and we’ve got cops and other officials strolling into a Seattle gay bar, handing out dress code violations like Stonewall never happened.

Over the weekend, JET—a mash-up of Seattle Police, Firefighters, the state Liquor folks, and others—waltzed into The Cuff Complex and The Seattle Eagle just to have a look-see.

Surprisingly, There Was A Jockstrap At A Gay Bar

What did they find? Oh, just a bartender showing a bit of nipple and some folks in jockstraps. So, around 12:30 AM on Saturday, a gang of 10 from JET busts into Cuff. The owner, Joey Burgess, says they’re flashing lights all over, freaking out customers who just bailed. They spot  nipple, which is apparently against state law when you’re also serving alcohol, and they’re thinking of slapping some penalties.

Then, two officials check out the Eagle on Saturday night at 11:30 PM. The owner, Keith Christensen, is now waiting to hear if his jockstrap-wearing customers will cost him a citation.

This JET crew didn’t just stop there. They visited a bunch of places—gay clubs, hookah lounges, a college bar, and even a hot dog stand. But neither Cuff nor The Eagle had any past issues with booze or violence. It’s all about the dress code this time. The owners are pretty baffled why their bars got this special attention two nights in a row and are calling for an investigation.

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This, Sadly, Isn’t New For JET

Turns out, this isn’t new for these bars. Christensen mentioned losing a bunch of business in 2008 because of similar issues. And Burgess has been on this since Pride 2022, when the state folks got on his case for a customer in a jockstrap. He’s even had to play fashion police at his bar, asking folks to cover up more.

Burgess is bummed because his business is taking a hit. People think he’s all about controlling their looks, even though he’s just under state pressure. It’s tough explaining this stuff in a packed bar late at night.

The Cuff bar (front entrance)

(via KIRO 7)

And here’s the kicker: You can strut around in a jockstrap playing kickball at a nearby park, but walk into a Capitol Hill bar like that, and it’s citation city. Burgess says, “You can be yourself in Seattle, just not in a gay bar.”

When The Stranger asked the Liquor folks about it, they were like, “We’re still figuring it out,” but then they said they’re not targeting LGBTQ+ spaces. They’re saying this whole thing was just regular work for them.

Just Don’t Call It A Raid

At a meeting on Tuesday, the LCB Board Chair, David Postman, wasn’t cool with calling it a “raid,” but he got why people were upset, especially with the history of cops busting queer bars. He even called the evidence photos “unfortunate.”

But here’s some hope: A bill in Olympia could chill out the rules on mixing adult entertainment and booze. Strippers Are Workers (SAW) developed a “Stripper Bill of Rights” that could make life easier for dancers and even mentioned changing rules for strip clubs. Last year, they tried to get booze in clubs legalized, but that didn’t fly. This year, they’re trying a different angle.

Madison Zack-Wu from SAW is about fighting these old-school rules that hit marginalized and non-conforming folks the hardest. It’s like the same battle for queer venues and strip clubs, trying to make a living without unnecessary judgment.

Source: KIRO 7, The Stranger, Seattle Times

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