Seattle authorities drop ‘lewd conduct violations’ charges after backlash from the LGBTQ+ community

Authorities dropped the charges after five days of backlash. ( GENNA MARTIN/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Last week, gay bars in Seattle, Washington, were raided by local authorities. Venue owners claimed that citations were made “solely on individuals’ clothing choices”. 

Several venues, including four LGBTQ+ bars, were reported to be targeted by the Joint Enforcement Team (JET); a coalition of local authorities, including the Seattle Police and the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB). 

Local publication The Stranger claimed JET inspected 15 venues over the weekend, including four LGBTQ+ clubs, with “lewd conduct violations” registered. Other places included a college bar, a music venue and a bowling alley.

However, on 1 February, the LCB announced that it would drop the charges against those establishments. They also said they would pause enforcement of the “lewd conduct violations”, as per the outlet.

In a letter to state officials obtained by the publication, the LCB also stated that it would stop participating in Seattle’s JET, which undertook the raids. They also stated they would “reopen rulemaking” to amend or repeal regulations around “lewd conduct”.

The LCB also noted the previous feedback from the LGBTQ+ establishment owners, and added: “The agency has become acutely aware of the fear and alarm it raised within the LGBTQ+ community”.

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“At Wednesday’s Board meeting and in many private conversations, we heard strong objections to our actions,” the letter said, per The Stranger. “The community expressed concerns that LGBTQ+ venues are being targeted and that the LCB did not understand the troubling history of such enforcement or the value of these clubs as a safe place for people who often face discrimination, threats, and violence.”

Joey Burgess, the owner of venue Cuff and Queer/Bar, told the publication that he was “gobsmacked” that the LCB had paused such enforcement after five days of backlash. 

“The relief that I have – that I no longer have to strip away queer culture and honestly people’s right to be themselves on behalf of an agency that’s threatening our liquor license–is probably one of the most gratifying things in my career, period,” he said.

“I feel like a ton of bricks are off me, and that heading into this weekend people can feel safe and good about themselves.”

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