Court ruling about touching in strip clubs leaves 'gray zone'

Giuseppe Valiante, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:05 PM ET

MONTREAL - Montreal's infamous strip clubs might have to get a little less hot and heavy.

Peter Sergakis, president of an association representing 700 Quebec bar owners, said a recent Supreme Court ruling has created a "gray zone" in the law.

In 2007, a Laval court found a local strip club was a "common bawdy-house" because it allowed its clients to pay for contact dances. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld that ruling in January.

In some strip clubs in Quebec, particularly in the Greater Montreal Area, clients are able to pay for lap dances where they can touch the body of a dancer, including her breasts and thighs. According to the Criminal Code, it is illegal in Canada to be found "without lawful excuse, in a common bawdy-house."

The judge in the 2007 case noted prostitution can occur even if the individuals don't "complete" a sexual act. This means a public place that allows people to pay just to touch a woman can be considered a bawdy-house.

Sergakis said for more than a decade, police tolerated so-called contact dances at Montreal's strip clubs, but now bar owners fear police will use this decision to pick on clubs they don't like.

Sergakis owns several bars and clubs in Montreal, including Cabaret Les Amazones, a strip club that allows contact dances "where the customer has the right to touch certain parts of a dancer and not others," Sergakis said.

"That was the trend (towards contact dancing)," he said. "We didn't do it by choice, but everybody else was allowing it so we did it because the demand was there."

He said he's never had problems with the police, but fears that could change.

"I want to be clear, I am not saying I want prostitution in my club," Sergakis said. "I'm saying we have to decide here in this country what we want so everyone knows what is accepted. I think the government should establish clear rules and enforce them. Right now there is total confusion."

According to court documents, plain-clothed Laval police officers entered the strip club and were told they could pay $10 dollars for a private booth and "touch the breasts, the buttocks and the thighs" of a dancer.

Court records reveal police claimed every time a dancer exited a booth, she would proceed towards the doorman and give him money.

On one occasion, a "young female" named Melanie, sat at the police officers' table and told them that for $10 dollars, "they could touch her anywhere, but she won't go any further."

The judge in the case ruled that what went on at the Laval club was "frequent and continued acts of prostitution" and the dancers "were clear and transparent in their offers of sexual favours for money for the sexual gratification of clients in a public place."

The owners of the Laval bar were not available to speak to QMI Agency.

Montreal police are not commenting on the case.


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