Denver keeps strip clubs, dancers in check with undercover prostitution stings.

Undercover operations, police interventions, and a vigilant vice squad continue to monitor adult cabarets in Denver, despite the era being far from a golden age for strip clubs in 2024.

In November, PT’s Showclub faced unwarranted attention after admitting wrongdoing by its dancers, leading to a two-week closure in January as part of an agreement with the city. Denver, with only five licensed adult cabarets, including Dandy Dan’s, the Diamond Cabaret, Rick’s Cabaret, and Diamond After Dark, maintains strict regulations that contribute to the industry’s overall compliance.

Disciplinary cases are rare in Denver’s strip club scene, and Eric Escudero from the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses attributes this success to the city’s stringent rules. Over the past 13 years, there have been only a few incidents, such as violations of COVID-19 orders and solicitation by an undercover officer in 2019.

The most recent case involving PT’s began with an anonymous complaint in January 2023, leading to a sting operation in March where dancers were arrested for prostitution and public indecency. PT’s agreed to a settlement, including a temporary closure, enhanced surveillance, and a ban on the involved dancers.

Despite the city’s efforts, one dancer, Rebecca Dolana, suggests that illegal activities are more widespread than enforcement actions indicate. She describes prostitution as “rampant” in the industry, acknowledging the challenges faced by those engaged in it. However, Dolana emphasizes the negative impact on other dancers trying to uphold the industry’s standards.

Denver mandates licenses for adult cabarets and some individual striptease dancers, with regulations similar to other cities like Seattle and Phoenix. However, the strip club industry lacks standardized regulations, varying depending on the locale’s conservatism. Denver currently has only five businesses with adult cabaret licenses, and only eight active exotic dancer licenses.

Privacy concerns arose last summer when Denver’s online licensing center exposed dancer addresses, prompting a quick response from Excise and Licenses to protect individuals’ safety. While city oversight of working conditions is supported, there is skepticism about increased police oversight. Ultimately, the success of dancers in any city depends on supportive management and strict rules for customer behavior.

The city requires adult cabarets and even some individual striptease dancers to obtain licenses, a practice not unique to Denver. Similar protocols exist in other major cities like Seattle and Phoenix.

However, the strip club industry lacks consistent standards for regulations, with rules varying based on the locale’s conservatism, according to Bernadette Barton, the director of gender studies at Morehead State University. For example, some places permit lap dancing, while others require a 10-foot distance. Portland, Oregon, stands out for having the most strip clubs per capita among major U.S. cities, with 54 in total, partly due to the state supreme court recognizing nude stripping as protected free expression under Oregon’s constitution.

In Denver, five businesses hold adult cabaret licenses, allowing for adult entertainment and liquor. Only eight exotic dancer licenses were active recently, as obtaining them depends on circumstances. Dancers are more likely to need licenses if they perform outside of clubs, such as at businesses, homes, or events like bachelor parties, according to Escudero.

Last summer, the exotic dancer license faced a privacy issue in Denver. The city established a new online permitting and licensing center in November 2022, inadvertently making data listing addresses tied to those licenses available online. Escudero attributed this to an old license application process that has since been eliminated.

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