This week in Miami, Swinging Richards slapped (swung?) a lawsuit on the city of North Miami Beach for its prohibition of nude male dancing. The gay strip club, which opened in October of last year, has been swinging its wares on Biscayne Boulevard without any fear of legal recourse. NMB does have a 1994 “no nudie bar” ordinance, but until now, it has never been enforced.
Just around the corner, at Dean’s Gold and G5ive Lounge (two female strip clubs), the ladies were shaking it without fear, as well. And why should they worry? Despite the city’s ordinance, the cops had been looking the other way (when they were not inside, looking directly upward) for years. In fact, the property that Swinging Richards owns had been occupied by female strip clubs for over 20 years.
But things are changing on Biscayne Boulevard. This month, the city of North Miami Beach announced that it would be dusting off the “no nudie bar” ordinance and enforcing the law. The move came just eight months after Swinging Richards opened its doors. Coincidence? The bar’s owner, C.B. Jones, thinks not. Jones told “The Miami Herald” this week that the ban was a direct result of the gay bar’s success in a predominantly female strip club area. The decision to enforce the ban now, less than a year after the gay club opened its doors, led the Atlanta-based owner to sue the city for anti-gay discrimination.
Let’s face it: all-male nude revues are not for everyone. There are men—including gay men—who find it off-putting (not their cup of teabag). But the same can be said of female strip clubs. If people do not want to see it, they are not forced to watch. The dancers are not strutting along Biscayne Boulevard in their tighty whities. They are inside a heavily guarded establishment, dancing for patrons.
As for the “cleaning the streets” argument, the timing does not match the sentiment. For 20 years, the city of North Miami Beach has turned a blind eye toward female nude revues. But now that the gays have arrived, it is time for a spring cleaning. In the city’s eyes, a gay male body is worthy of legal action, while a woman’s body is part of the landscape. This makes the city not only homophobic, but sexist.
Covering up the entertainers will not only hurt the the three clubs’ owners and entertainers, but countless other employees who make a living on the club’s success. From the waiters and bartenders to the dishwashers and janitorial staff, this ordinance will cost people their livelihoods, and all because a city did not want gay men looking at naked men. And what about the straight men who simply wanted to hang out at their neighborhood nudie bar? They were caught in the homophobic crossfire.
I grew up in Miami, and I can tell you that at any Miami club, exorbitantly-priced bar drinks add up, and the cover charges are high enough to make even the patrons lose their shirts. But this money is an essential part of the city’s economy. The city’s ban on nude reviews will not make them disappear altogether; if banned, the clubs will cease to be on the city’s radar, but they will continue to operate underground. This will lead to more crime, less money for the city, and an unsafe working environment for the eye candy.
Nobody wants that.
So North Miami Beach: leave Swinging Richards alone. If women can go topless on your beaches, gay men can go bottomless in our clubs. You can’t have it both ways.