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New rules would allow touching between dancers and patrons in Toronto strip clubs

An exotic dancer takes the stage at a Toronto strip club in Oct. 14, 2010.

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The proposed loosening of Toronto's "no-touch" rule at strip clubs does not go far enough for the adult entertainment industry.

Exotic dancers and patrons would be allowed to touch one another at Toronto strip joints if council adopts recommendations contained in a new report.

But the permitted contact would not be much sexier than a handshake.

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Tim Labrinos, the executive director of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada, is planning to ask for a one-month delay so that the language can be clarified to ban only "sexual" physical contact – a change he said would permit dancers to perch harmlessly on clients' knees.

"I think it should be up to the entertainer. Why not?" Mr. Labrinos said. "Someone sitting on someone's lap is allowed at a wedding. So if an entertainer chooses to do that in the way that they're performing, it's not a threat to anyone's health and safety."

A new staff report, released Monday, suggests the municipal government's strict no-touch rule be changed to ensure that "innocuous contact" does not land strippers or strip-club patrons in legal trouble.

It recommends the blanket prohibition be replaced with new language that says, "an entertainer is not permitted to touch, sit, or rest on, or make any physical contact with the covered, partially covered, or uncovered breasts, buttocks, genital, pubic, anal and perineal areas of a patron or any other person."

The same rule would apply to strip-club visitors.

If council endorses the proposed changes, Toronto would join Mississauga as one of the few major Canadian cities without a complete prohibition on physical contact at strip joints, according to the report.

London, Ottawa, Windsor, Hamilton, Vaughan, Calgary and Vancouver all ban touching at adult entertainment establishments.

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Councillor Cesar Palacio, the chair of Toronto's licensing and standards committee, does not support postponing a decision.

City staff consulted widely before publishing their recommendations, he said.

"These proposed changes are good news in my opinion," Mr. Palacio said. "I feel very confident with the recommendations in the report."

The report also suggests that, among other changes, a strip club's private rooms and booths have low walls and one open side to protect entertainers' safety, and that the city continue to maintain a private database of licensed strippers to combat human trafficking.

The proposed changes come after council agreed to modernize the bylaw governing Toronto's adult entertainment parlours.

The industry has shrunk significantly since 1997, when the city boasted 38 adult entertainment parlours and 2,320 licensed burlesque dancers. Today the city is home to 17 such clubs – the report recommends replacing the old-fashioned word parlour with club in the bylaw – and 1,467 licensed dancers.

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The strip-club industry asked for the review in novel fashion back in March. The Adult Entertainment Association of Canada invited exotic dancer Viviana to perform a three-minute, clothed pole dance at a meeting of council's Licensing and Standards Committee.

The same committee will consider the results of the review Friday, before the recommendations move on to the full council at the end of the month.

Councillors will not be treated to any exotic demonstrations at their meeting this week, Mr. Labrinos said.

"We had talked about demonstrating a private dance, a lap dance or something, but I think we're fine. We just need a little tweaking [of the bylaw,]" he said.

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Health reporter

Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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