Following intense community outcry, investigations have been suspended and violations dismissed regarding Seattle-area gay bars raided for “lewd conduct,” authorities said.
Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board has stopped enforcement of its lewd conduct rules and halted participation in Seattle’s Joint Enforcement Team, a coalition of police, fire, and other city departments that spearheaded the raids, the board said last week, according to The Stranger, a Seattle outlet.
The board will discuss rulemaking to amend or repeal the lewd conduct violation regulations next week, according to The Stranger.
The violations stemmed from sting operations last month targeting four of the city’s most popular LGBTQ+ nightlife spaces, including The Cuff, Massive, Queer/Bar, and the Seattle Eagle.
Officers assigned to the Joint Enforcement Team claimed they witnessed several instances of “lewd” behavior in violation of state law, including a patron wearing a jockstrap and a bartender serving drinks with his nipple exposed.
Washington liquor codes say it’s illegal for businesses to serve alcohol where nudity is present. But the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board said on Thursday that it would drop violations against the businesses and cease participation with the Joint Enforcement Team, the city police group that spearheaded the raids.
The board acknowledged the “fear and alarm it raised within the LGBTQ+ community” in an apology letter, according to the Stranger.
“… 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 bars celebrated the board’s decision to drop all charges in the case.
“The relief that I have — that I no longer have to strip away queer culture and honestly people’s right to be themselves on behalf of an agency that’s threatening our liquor license — is probably one of the most gratifying things in my career, period,” Joey Burgess, owner of The Cuff, told The Stranger. “I feel like a ton of bricks are off me, and that heading into this weekend people can feel safe and good about themselves.”