Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Settles Case Over Law Requiring Permits for Bathhouses, Clubs
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to settle a lawsuit filed last year by nine bathhouses and sex clubs over county health regulations on commercial sex venues, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 3/7). The bathhouses and sex clubs in March 2006 filed a lawsuit in the county's Superior Court seeking exemption from the county regulations. Commercial sex venues are defined in the regulations as "any establishment that charges patrons or members a fee for admission or membership and which as one of its primary purposes allows, facilitates and/or provides facilities for its patrons or members to engage in any high-risk sexual contact while on the premises." The Board of Supervisors in September 2004 approved an ordinance requiring commercial sex venues to obtain health permits from the county and adhere to health regulations in order to operate. In January 2006, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve regulations requiring sex venues to pay an annual fee and follow health rules, including providing on-site HIV testing and counseling. The regulations also required such venues to obtain a health permit from the county and pay an annual fee of $1,088, as well as submit to quarterly inspections. By establishing a fee under the new regulations, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services would be able to conduct inspections and issue permits to the venues. The regulations also required venue owners to post signs prohibiting unprotected sex and to deny entry to customers under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. The regulations took effect in March 2006. The nine bathhouses and sex clubs in the lawsuit claimed that they "are not commercial sex venues" because they have "always sought to prevent high-risk sex." The suit asked the Superior Court judge to void the regulations or exempt the nine businesses (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/14/06). Under the settlement, business operators "basically agreed to adhere to" county regulations but have the right to file a complaint about potential violations of the law or their rights, Jonathan Fielding, county director of public health, said. The county has requested that signs, condoms, lubricant and adequate lighting be available to discourage high-risk sex, Fielding added. The Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to the settlement in a closed session (Los Angeles Times, 3/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.