Strip club owner sues NY Governor over shutdown

Lots of businesses have been hit hard by executive shutdown orders and that’s particularly true of those that don’t qualify for federal relief grants or loans. Falling into that category are strip clubs and other “sex work” business operations. The owner of one such “gentleman’s club” on Long Island has reached the end of his ropes (or poles, as the case may be) and is taking Governor Andrew Cuomo to court for causing him “immediate and irreparable harm and actual and undue hardship.” Will the Governor be moved to offer some compassionate relief so that the scantily clad workers there can go back to dancing for dollars? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s unlikely. (NY Post)

The owner of a Long Island jiggle joint was stripped of his constitutional right to put skin on display thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus shutdown, a new lawsuit claims.

Sean McCarthy, who’s run the Blush Gentleman’s Club in Commack since 1997, filed suit against Cuomo over his executive orders shuttering non-essential businesses amid the pandemic.

“Governor Cuomo is engaged in a huge overstep of executive power,” said Joe Murray, an attorney for McCarthy. “He is infringing on people’s fundamental civil rights far beyond the least restrictive means allowable under the constitution.

“Someone should remind him he is the governor and not the king.”

Thus far the Governor’s office hasn’t returned any requests for comment on the lawsuit.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m generally supportive of business owners who are bristling at the authoritarian nature of many of these executive orders, particularly when they don’t seem to be applied evenly across the board. But when it comes to strip clubs, even I am left with more than a few questions.

One of the primary requirements for businesses wishing to open back up is that the employers ensure that new social distancing and sanitation protocols are put into place. For his part, Sean McCarthy is saying that his business “can run safely through social distancing and strict hygiene by staff.” Really?

Look, I’m no expert on the comings and goings at strip clubs (*cough*) but it’s rather hard to imagine what that experience would be like. I suppose you could force all of the customers gathered around the edge of the stage to wear masks, though I’d imagine that would be kind of weird. And the bartenders and bouncers could probably wear masks as well. But what about the dancers? How effective is a mask if you’re basically naked (or nearly so) in terms of the rest of your body? And even if you’re wiping down the poles between every performance, you’re asking that bottle of sanitizer to do an awful lot of heavy lifting.

And then there are the normal interactions between the patrons and the performers that allow the women to earn their living. Sticking cash into the dancer’s garter or wherever else she might want it? Forget it. That’s totally breaking the six-foot rule. Even tossing the money up on the stage for her to pick up is risky because money is notoriously filthy at the best of times and the virus can live for days on porous surfaces like a five-dollar bill.

And then there are the special rooms where the dancers offer “private dances” for big spenders. That’s where many of them make their best income (or… so I’m told). There’s nothing going on in those rooms that’s going to be in compliance with the new social distancing rules.

The point is, if you’re going to operate a strip joint where physical contact is verboten and even the exchange of cash is considered off-limits, who is going to show up to watch the dancers? More to the point, why would the women show up for work if their ability to earn a decent amount of money is being effectively eliminated? It just doesn’t make any sense. And if you’re not going to enforce rules like the ones I just described, then you’re not in compliance and will likely be subject to being shut down again anyway.

While it pains me to say it, the governors may have made the right call on this subject. I’m sure some of you think that these sorts of clubs are “essential businesses” every bit as much as liquor stores. (And liquor stores definitely are.) But we may be getting ready to chalk this up as yet another way that the novel coronavirus is changing American society. Strip clubs may be a thing of the past… possibly permanently.

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