Seattle gay bars raided; community outraged at law enforcement

Seattle gay bars raided

LGBTQ+ advocates in Washington state are outraged after a string of inspections over the weekend included gay establishments that were cited for how patrons were dressed. Photos: Instagram @thecuffcomplex @theseattleeaglebar

LGBTQ+ advocates in Seattle are outraged after a string of inspections over the weekend included gay establishments that were cited for how patrons dressed.

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 local LGBTQ+ nightlife community has united, demanding transparency and answers, The Stranger reports.

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Reacting to the community outrage, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, also known as LCB, addressed concerns in a regularly scheduled Tuesday board meeting. The board’s chair, David Postman, initiated the discussion, acknowledging the community’s concern and confirming the inspections.

“We’re also well aware of the history of law enforcement interaction with patrons of these clubs and understand, I think it was described yesterday in one of the statements as generational trauma around that,” Postman said.

Postman explained that the weekend’s events were part of standard enforcement actions by the Joint Enforcement Team, which includes Seattle Police, fire, and LCB officials.

“These were not raids,” he said. “I’ll tell you the LCB, at times, does participate and conduct raids where we get warrants, seize evidence, and come in with large groups of people. That’s not what these were.”

The lewd conduct violations in question were related to clothing that exposed the buttocks and nipples of patrons, which is prohibited under state law in liquor establishments, he said, noting that, in his opinion, the law needed to change to be a reflection of today’s times.

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Postman further detailed the extent of the inspections, noting that on Friday night, the Joint Enforcement Team visited 10 locations, including two known as historic gay clubs. On Saturday, LCB officers inspected eight clubs, two of which were gay clubs. He said these inspections were part of their routine work to ensure compliance with state liquor laws.

Postman also said that as part of the investigation over the weekend, enforcement officers took some pictures of patrons, which he called “unfortunate.”

Despite the LCB’s assurance, the actions have been interpreted differently by the affected establishments and the queer patrons. An Instagram statement from a coalition of nightclub owners and signees expressed their belief that the citations were based on individuals’ clothing choices. “The absence of violence or liquor-related issues in the citations indicates a concerning focus on targeting queer individuals in queer spaces,” the statement read.

The community’s reaction is rooted in a historical incident at Tugs Belmont, a gay bar known for hosting underwear parties, which faced similar challenges 30 years ago, the statement noted. During that time, Washington’s first gay lawmaker, Cal Anderson, challenged the enforcement by declaring he would attend the bar in his underwear, daring the police to arrest a state senator.

“We are flabbergasted that these draconian enforcement practices are happening again, 30 years later,” the group wrote.

This article originally appeared on, and is shared here as part of an LGBTQ+ community exchange between Q Voice News and Equal Pride.

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Christopher Wiggins

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