Thursday, March 13, 1997

Desmond Bill and Peter Edwards
Staff Reporters

Lap Dancing indecent, high court rules

A line has been drawn for police to enforce law

The country's highest court has ruled that lap dancing is indecent — that could make it easier for police to crack down on clubs and bars in Metro.

Up until now, the lap dancing ban has been nearly impossible to enforce, police admit.

However, police say yesterday's decision by the Supreme Court of Canada gives the clout to fight what critics call a form of prostitution.

"A line has been drawn, we have a final decision," said Detective Constable Bruce Newman of the morality squad.

"Now everyone knows where the law stands, you'll see us enforcing the law by laying indecency charges," he said.

But a lawyer involved in the case said yesterday it is not clear exactly what activities have been banned and it won't be known until the Supreme Court issues a written decision.

It took less than two hours for the court to uphold the conviction of Allen East, former entertainment manager at Cheaters tavern on Yonge St., on a charge of allowing an indecent performance in March and April of 1991.

Management at Cheaters declined comment yesterday.

The court is still deciding if tavern owner Patrick Mara can be held criminally responsible for what happened in the bar.

East and Mara were convicted when the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a 1994 decision by Judge Gordon Hachborn acquitting them.

The appeal court, ruling that lap dancing is indecent and degrades and dehumanizes women, said it can spread infectious diseases, constitutes a form of prostitution and puts dancers at risk of sexual assault.

Detective Reg Pitts, also of the morality squad, said lap dancing is still "a common thing" in Metro. He said the decision "will make enforcement of existing laws a little easier."

Lawyer Heather McArthur, who represented East, said yesterday the Supreme Court's written decision is likely within a couple of months.

The decision seems to outlaw exotic dancers from fondling and masturbating customers while sitting on their laps and to stop customers from fondling the dancers.

Lap dancing ruling called a job killer

Questions remain whether the ruling outlaws simple touching or prevents a naked woman from sitting on a patron's lap.

However, "I will be advising anyone who seeks legal advice from me that any physical contact would be deemed indecent and should not take place," McArthur said.

Newman siad uncertainty over the issue has made Metro police reluctant to use the indecency law to stop lap dancing.

They continued to lay charges "but had to target clubs as bawdy houses involving prostitution rather than charge them under the indecency sections of the Criminal Code," he said.

Bawdy house charges involving lap dancers have been laid against the House of Lancaster on Bloor St. W., the Jungle Club on Finch Ave., and Remington, a gay gar on Yonge St.

At the House of Lancaster, a manager who identified himself only as Peter blasted the court's decision as a job-killer that will spawn anything -goes bodyrub parlors that will be much harder to police.

His bar employs 125 people, and those jobs will be gone if the law is strictly enforced, Peter said. Customers simply won't go back to staring at dancers after they've gotten used to being touched, he said.

Body-Rub Parlors

"How do you go back to being a virgin?" Peter asked.

He claimed some 350 bodyrub parlors have sprung up to fill the demand formerly satisfied by lap dancing.

Those clubsare far wilder than strip clubs with lap dancing, Peter said, comparing them to the bodyrub parlors of Yonge St. of the 1970s.

Lap dancing didn't victimize women or customers, Peter said.

"There's nobody forcing the girls in," Peter said. "It's the other way around. You've got to grab the girls to get them off the customers."

Peter said strip club managers like himself have been unfairly stereotyped as pimps and exploiters.

"I don't make any money off the dancing," Peter said. "What the dancing does is attract the guys that buy booze and I make money off the booze. The government makes money off the booze too."

At Filmores strip club on Dundas St. E., home of TO's sexiest couch dancers," management declined to comment on the court case, but noted that the club's infamous "Hachborn Room," named after Judge Hachborn, had been closed.

With files from Canadian Press.

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Created: April 9, 1997
Last modified: February 2, 2001
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