Seattle’s LGBTQ+ Community is fuming this week over reports coming in that JET, the “Joint Enforcement Team” visited at least 4 gay bars over the weekend (plus other venues as well) to inspect the bars for any violations of city or state ordinances. JET consists of members of the Seattle Police Department, the Seattle Fire Department, the Seattle Department of Transportation, and the Washington State Liquor & Cannabis Board and their function is to pester local businesses. OK…not “pester” but “conduct inspections of nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and other businesses (adult entertainment, massage parlors, mobile food vendors, special events) at peak times to help them maintain a safe environment for patrons and the community. JET also checks for compliance with regulatory and license codes” per their website. And, obviously, businesses do need routine inspections to make sure they’re not dirty, or selling rotten food or watered down booze, or fire hazards, or selling fentanyl in the bathroom.
But the problem people are having with this weekend’s “inspections” by JET, is that the main reason for them visiting the four LGBTQ bars was to apparently focus on…..dress code violations. Or, more specifically, reports of venue staff and patrons exposing nipples or wearing jock straps on the dance floor. Yes, in 2024, gay bodies are being policed by government institutions for our appearance. During a time when the Seattle Police Department is constantly whining about being understaffed and underfunded, they apparently now have the staffing available to cruise gay bars in the wee hours to make sure homosexuals have their nipples and butts sufficiently covered as to not cause alarm amongst the other homosexuals and their allies in the same room. In a city with naked bike rides, naked marchers in parades, and naked sun bathing in area parks, it seems a unique choice of available resources.
The four gay bars inspected were Neighbours Night Club, The Cuff Complex, and The Seattle Eagle, all on Capitol Hill, the city’s traditional LGBTQ neighborhood, and The Lumber Yard Bar in White Center. The Stranger reported Monday evening that The Lumber Yard had no violations while JET supposedly observed a lewd conduct violation at Neighbours. We haven’t talked to anyone from The Lumber Yard but we heard from Roxy Doll at Neighbours who stated that they hadn’t been told of any violations.
But, both The Cuff and The Eagle were told that there were issues at both venues. Co-owner Joey Burgess of the Cuff Complex told me that JET’s chief issue was with a bartender who had a nipple partially exposed. The JET posse of 8 arrived at the Cuff around 12:30am early Saturday morning at the club’s busiest time and proceeded to make their presence known throughout the bar, their presence and demeanor intimidating many patrons into leaving. The bar manager told Burgess he felt the visit was “a way to intimidate and harass a historically gay club” and that this visit wasn’t unique; JET has visited the bar more than once since Pride of last year where the sight of individuals in jock straps apparently sent the law into a tizzy.
Jock straps also seem to have been an issue with the visit to The Seattle Eagle as well but according to The Stranger, owner Keith Christensen hadn’t heard all the specifics from JET about any violations. Christensen is an old hand in dealing with battles with the State Liquor Control Board who hounded him frequently in the late 2000s over issues dealing with overt displays of sexuality in the club.
This weekend’s actions by JET and the Liquor Control Board goaded Burgess, Christensen and others to issue an 8 page Call to Action on social media on Monday. The red backgrounded call was quickly shared across Instagram and Facebook and listed concerns about the heavy handed and ridiculous actions by JET and encouraged people to take action by contacting them at their meeting this week.
We’re sharing all 8 pages of that Call to Action and encourage everyone to take action by contacting the Liquor Control Board (who have been ridiculously puritanical for decades) as well as contacting City Council members and the Mayor’s Office. This kind of right wing, policing of queer bodies and spaces is not acceptable anywhere but certainly not in a city like Seattle.
Go bug the Mayor at https://www.seattle.gov/mayor
Go bug the City Council at https://www.seattle.gov/council
Go tell Seattle Police Department to quit wasting time checking on gay nipples and jock straps: https://www.seattle.gov/opa/complaints/file-a-complaint
Go tell the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to stop policing things that really don’t need policing…like nipples and jock straps in bars: https://lcb.wa.gov/contact