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Published: Friday, 1/17/2003

Panel wants to ban topless lap dances

ERIE, Mich. - It's business as usual at Alcatraz, where patrons can order a beer and pay for a lap dance.

But if a ban on topless lap dancing in bars goes through, it would mean a significant change in Monroe County's only adult-oriented business.

The five-member Michigan Liquor Control Commission approved regulations last week that would require topless dancers to stay three feet from patrons and perform on platforms at least 18 inches in height.

Bar owners have said the new rules will affect their business. Commission officials said the proposed rules are in response to some establishments allowing lap dances that go too far.

“The rule doesn't ban topless dancing,” said Ken Wozniak of the Liquor Control Commission. “It says that when there is topless dancing, there would have to be a three-foot distance between the dancer and the customer.”

The rules would not apply if the dancers are clothed or if the establishment does not serve alcohol, Mr. Wozniak said.

It was this second regulation that created some difficulties in enforcement because determining what is a simulated sexual act can be a matter of judgment, authorities said.

“There was a feeling out there in jurisdictions that have these places that it had simply gone too far,” Mr. Wozniak said.

There are 78 liquor establishments in the state that have topless activity permits. The majority of those are in Wayne County, directly north of Monroe County. Alcatraz is the only business in Monroe, Lenawee, or Hillsdale counties that has both permits.

Alcatraz's management said yesterday it wasn't aware of the pending rule. The business has always operated within the law and without any problems, the management said.

The rule will be sent to the state's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, made up of five senators and five representatives.

If not taken up after 21 days, the rule will be filed with the Secretary of State and will go into effect 15 days later.

Mr. Wozniak said bar owners have threatened a lawsuit if the rule is enacted.

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