At Tuesday morning’s Grand Rapids City Commission Committee of the Whole meeting, City Commissioners voted to table a resolution that would restrict sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs like Mark London’s proposed Showgirl Galleria. The resolution was tabled after Commissioner Tormala announced that he planned to propose an amendment that would make nude dancing legal and focus instead on illicit activities such as prostitution. The proposed resolution as it is currently written would ban total nudity, keep patrons at a set distance from performers, elevate the stage, and require a peep show booths to be visible to club operators. Tormala said that he made the changes over concerns that the proposed resolution would not hold up to an anticipated legal challenge. Judy Rose, member of the Black Hills Citizens for a Better Community, the group that is leading the effort and has offered to bankroll the city’s defense dismissed Tormala’s concerns and at the City Commission’s Tuesday night meeting said that while she had no problem waiting another two weeks for further discussion of the resolution, the City Commission had already heard from Scott Bergthold, a lawyer who specializes in the writing and defending of such resolutions who believes that the Grand Rapids resolution is entirely defensible. The corporate media has reported that most Commissioners oppose the Tormala’s changes to the resolution.
Shortly after the City Commission voted to table the resolution, Mark London opened Showgirl Galleria for the first time, holding what was described as an “impromptu” opening. While the club will not have its formal opening with regular hours until May, the “opening” on Tuesday offered Mark London another opportunity to get free advertising for his club from the corporate media who has been largely willing to give him considerable airtime to promote his club. According to the report that ran in the Grand Rapids Press, a patron challenged stereotypes about strip clubs and said “This isn’t the kind of place to get drunk and grope women… I think it’s going to be a little more upscale,” while watching three semi-nude women dance for the dozen or so men that had assembled to watch the dancers amidst the ongoing construction. As a means of flouting the proposed resolution, the dancers appeared without pasties that would be required to cover their nipples under the new resolution while patrons were encouraged to stuff dollar bills in the dancers g-strings, a practice that would be banned with the new resolution.
As has been the case with most of the reporting on the resolution in the corporate media, there was no discussion of the realities of the sex industry and instead opposition to the resolution is framed entirely in terms of religion and morality. There has yet to be any mention of the connections between the pornography industry (of which strip clubs are a part) and sexual violence or the inherent objectification and dehumanization of women in strip clubs and the ways in which such views continue outside of clubs. Similarily, while there has been considerable discussion of the Showgirl Galleria, there has been no attention given to Tini Bikini’s, another downtown club that both promotes objectifying views of women and the pornography industry as a whole.