Sexism in Reno’s Strip Clubs: How Regulators Denigrate the Trade

By Bobby Box

Nevada lawmakers have it out for strippers. According to a lawsuit in Federal Court, a city order in Reno requires that female dancers register with the government to obtain “work cards” before they can legally perform. To secure one, dancers must be fingerprinted, disclose work history, pay a hefty fee and agree to an FBI background check. Their full names are then added to a public database with other personal information. Given the line of work, a leak or hacking of this information can be dangerous.

The three clubs that are suing don’t have an issue with the law. They just refuse to ignore the glaring fact that male dancers aren’t held to the same standard, despite having the same job. We call that discrimination.

Even worse, when these cards are obtained, women must carry them while they perform (your guess is as good as mine as to where they’d put it). The Reno clubs are quick to point they’re also required to enforce a 21-and-up age limit, while shows featuring male dancers can admit patrons 18 year old. The lawsuit claims the mandate violates the First Amendment and equal protection laws because their jobs are no different. Only their anatomy is.

Tod Story, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, told Broadly he believes the law is unconstitutional gender discrimination and attests Reno must apply its ordinances to men and women equally. “If the work card requirements for performers singles them out because of the type of expression they are engaged in, it likely infringes on the First Amendment rights of exotic dancers and strippers,” he said. “The City of Reno cannot single out these dancers for work card requirements because they disapprove of the performance content. Dancing is expression worthy of the full protection of the First Amendment.”

But it appears Reno has bigger fish to fry. City Council voted last week to pursue new ordinances that would force downtown strip clubs to move to properly zoned industrial areas within Reno. City staff will begin rewriting ordinances that prohibit digital outdoor signs at strip clubs within six months, prohibit alcohol at improperly zoned clubs and force strip clubs to industrial areas of town within five years. The ordinances will be vetted by the Reno Planning Commission and will see two more council votes before it’s put to action.

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Councilwoman Neoma Jardon, who initiated an effort to rid downtown of sex-related businesses, voted against alcohol restriction and the forced relocation of existing strip clubs. Jardon claims she is simply trying to halt any potential proliferation of the business in downtown Reno, the Reno Gazzette-Journalpublished. The rest of the council, however, agreed the city needs to clear its economic center of strip clubs if it wants to revitalize the area.