Supporters of the resilient effort to pass an ordinance regulating strip bars in the city got their wish Monday night, albeit a watered-down version, as all members of the City Council in attendance supported the measure. Sue Brannelly, the council member from Black Rock who spearheaded passage, says it’s a good start, but she will work to add criminal background checks as the ordinance allows within four years. CT Post scribe Mike Mayko reports:
The strip bar regulation, minus criminal background checks on dancers and containing a watered down definition of lap dances, took nearly three years to make it through the council. The proposal allows both the police and the Health Department to conduct inspections of facilities. It also sets requirements for new strip bars, including restrictions on how close a dancer can get to a patron.
“With the passing of this ordinance, together with the prior amendment of the massage parlor ordinance earlier this year, we’re providing our law enforcement officers and public health officials with the tools necessary to ensure the health and welfare of both the customers and the workers at these facilities, and the public safety of our residents,” Mayor Bill Finch said. “Strengthening this ordinance sends a clear message that the city plans to curtail the spread of human trafficking in our city.”
Fifteen council members voted in favor of the strip bar ordinance, while Blunt abstained because of his position as the city’s environmental health director. Four members were absent.
Just a week ago, Councilman Martin McCarthy pushed through numerous revisions, then still voted against the proposed ordinance while it was being considered by committee. Following his vote to approve the ordinance at Monday’s meeting, he said his “constituents were very vocal” in demanding its passage.
But Sue Brannelly, McCarthy’s councilmate from Black Rock’s 130th District, said she was not through yet.
“The next step is to have it amended and restore the criminal background requirement,” said Brannelly, a driving force behind the ordinance during the three years it took to pass. The ordinance allows the council to review it within four years.
Several women, including state Rep. Auden Grogins; former mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster, Stephanie Barnes, Helen Losak and Jennifer Buchanan, all urged the council to pass the proposal.
Losak said residents of the upper East Side have been dealing for years with the “debauchery” dancers brought into that area. She said this included prostitution, illegal drug use and assaults.
“We have been told this is an art form, that dancers have First Amendment rights,” Losak said. “Now, today is our First Amendment.”
Foster said the ordinance is an important message to send to Bridgeporters and people doing business with Bridgeport “that we care about our self-respect.”
Still, Foster was angry that only six of the 20 council members (Blunt, Holloway, Lydia Martinez, Martin McCarthy, Thomas McCarthy and John Olson) were present for the ordinance committee’s public hearing, which began at 6 p.m.
“It’s outrageous,” she said. “I would think they would show a little more respect to hear from the public. This is a subject they were all going to vote on tonight.”
Full story here.