L.A. County Board of Supervisors Preliminarily Approves Law To Require Permits for Bathhouses, Sex Clubs
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a law that would require commercial sex venues, such as gay bathhouses and sex clubs, to obtain permits from the county in order to operate, the Los Angeles Times reports. Under the rules, permits would be revoked if clubs allow patrons to have unprotected sex. Although the county currently has the authority to close commercial sex venues that allow customers to engage in unprotected sex, health officials say that the law is "too vague and difficult to enforce" because patrons avoid such behavior during health inspections, according to the Times. The regulations would allow unannounced health inspections during prime business hours and would require clubs to post an explanation of the law, provide condoms and offer HIV testing and counseling, the Times reports. "I think we have a serious obligation to address this issue," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. "We certainly have a public health risk," Director of Public Health Jonathan Fielding said, adding that approximately 600,000 people visit commercial sex venues annually (Fox, Los Angeles Times, 9/8). Fielding in a report released in June recommended requiring licenses for gay bathhouses operating in the county following the release of a federally funded study showing a higher HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men at the clubs compared with other locations in Los Angeles County (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/28). "Consumers will benefit from the ordinance and guidelines, since they require all [club] owners to implement best practices, ensuring that essential prevention supplies like condoms, lube and HIV/STD testing are freely and discreetly available to patrons of every club," Lee Klosinski, director of programs for AIDS Project Los Angeles, said (APLA release, 9/7).
The board tentatively approved the law after hearing testimony in support of the measure from several AIDS prevention organizations and commercial sex venue patrons, the Times reports. No bathhouse owners testified against the measure, according to the Times. The board must vote on the proposal again next week for final county approval. If it is passed, the law cannot take effect until it is approved by the Los Angeles City Council because the county's nine bathhouses and two sex clubs are within the city limits. A spokesperson for City Council President Alex Padilla said that Padilla had not been contacted by county supervisors about the proposal. Stephen David Simon, the city's AIDS coordinator, said that his office would encourage the city council to approve the measure, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 9/8).