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Providence, R.I. Councilman drafts law to ban teen strippers; clubs agree

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — from www.projo.com – City Councilman Michael Solomon, the chairman of the Committee on Ordinances, said Thursday that he has submitted legislation to prohibit minors from working at adult entertainment venues in the city.

And the owner of two city strip clubs said that he and other adult-entertainment businesses will support the legislation.

The new law will make it illegal for an adult-entertainment establishment to let anyone under 18 provide entertainment or to serve food or beverages.

Establishments that violate the ordinance will be fined $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. Council President Peter S. Mancini and Councilman Nicholas Narducci are co-sponsors. The ordinance will be introduced at the council’s special meeting on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Right now, there is nothing in state law or city ordinance that prevents underage youths from performing at strip clubs. The Providence police discovered this omission when they began investigating the case of a 16-year-old runaway from Boston, who said she was dancing at Cheater’s strip club.

Police had also received reports from the state Department of Children Youth and Families about two underage girls dancing at Club Balloons, a club next to Cheater’s. Police checked those clubs, as well as all of the others in the city, but did not find minors working at the time. The Journal reported on Tuesday that the laws ban photos and films of minors in sexually suggestive poses, but not live acts.

“As the father of three daughters, I find this omission in state law appalling,” Solomon said in a prepared release. “The fact that there is nothing on the books prohibiting boys and girls under 18 from working as entertainers or strippers at these establishments is beyond belief. Young people are vulnerable to begin with — they should not be in a work environment that makes them even more vulnerable, and that places them in harm’s way — both emotionally and physically.”

Richard Shappy, who owns the Cadillac Lounge and Satin Doll strip clubs in Providence, and is the spokesman for the Rhode Island Entertainment Association, said he and several other owners of adult-entertainment businesses welcome the proposed ordinance, as well as legislation that Rep. Joanne Giannini is drafting to ban minors from strip clubs.

“We don’t want them in the place,” Shappy said. “We respect the laws. There’s enough business to be happy with the way things are.”

Shappy said the association includes his two clubs, the Foxy Lady, Club Fantasies, Club Desire, and the Dollhouse in Woonsocket. They hadn’t known about the loophole in the laws, he said, and they don’t want to hire minors anyway.

For one thing, Shappy said, the poor economy has driven more women to the clubs’ doors, searching for work.

“We have so many girls who want to work,” Shappy said. “Housewives, college students, office workers, hairdressers. I have an LPN, and RN, a girl at the ticket counter at Green [Airport].”

The teenager from Boston had been using a fake ID that said she was an adult. Shappy said he’s had other girls try to get work at his clubs with IDs that appeared to be fakes, so the clubs request birth certificates as proof of age.

“That discourages them,” Shappy said. “They don’t come back.”

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