Is it Safe in the Champagne Room?

In October 2010, Tina Womack, an exotic dancer, sued her place of employment, Oasis, for not complying with certain Dekalb County ordinances which would provide she have a safe environment for her to work. After suffering a bloody nose and a swollen, black eye and being falsely imprisoned by a customer in a VIP room, she also filed suit against her attacker, the 6’3, 200 pound, John Doe. VIP rooms are reserved for customers who want an intimate setting while they enjoy quaint, intimate conversation with their favorite dancer. The customer inquired about the limitations and was informed there was a no-touch policy, which disallowed customers to grope entertainers. Womack did entertain Doe and went to “her limit” but toward the end of the session, Doe insisted she “do more”. Womack did nothing more and Doe requested the return of some funds because “she didn’t do (what he expected she would).” He reached for her money on her garter and began punching her in the face and head when she shielded her money. The other dancer retrieved security and Doe was still striking Womack when security had arrived. Doe and his associate were politely walked to the front door where they were promptly escorted away from the establishment.

Womack’s manager insisted she not make a formal police report because the club manager assured her an officer had already been informed them of the incident and “didn’t care”. The manager told Womack he had a police friend who would “handle everything.” When she asked what happened to Doe she was informed they “ran off.” The police friend did show up to the club the next day but there was no official police report made.

Oasis argued they had no duty to prevent assault “motivated by personal malice.” Womack assumed Oasis would use the same protocol applied to VIP rooms as other (clubs) wherein the security periodically checks on the occupants during a VIP session. Womack had no way of learning the official identity of the culprit due to the inoperable surveillance system. Oasis contends they had no obligation to service, inspect or repair the system, which was coincidentally replaced shortly after the incident.

Womack says the court made a mistake by granting Oasis summary judgment because of the violations of the code constituted negligence. Oasis believed because there are no legal duties to protect dancers from customers, there is no case for negligence. But there was. OCGA 51-1-6 states: “when a law requires a person to perform an act for the benefit of another or to refrain from doing an act which may injure another although there was no cause of action is given in express terms, the injured party may recover for breach of such legal duty if he suffers damage thereby.”

The Dekalb County Commissioners did foresee the dangers of mixing nude dancers with alcohol and put certain ordinances in place to prevent certain criminal activities from occurring. Article XII Sec. 15-400 refers to all ordinances pertaining to adult establishments and states that there should be no place inside the strip club for private performances ( which the club did not deny occurred), dancers should not perform closer than 4 feet to patron and no money should be exchanged while a dancer is nude. All these ordinances were violated and which did constitute negligence. There is a need for more statutes to be added to the ordinances because Judge Barnes has charged Womack with proving a “causal connection between breach [of ordinances] and her injuries.  He also said that the result would depend on a jury to determine if the security’s negligence caused the injury.

Any dancer who has gone to VIP with a customer knows this could happen to anyone especially if the security neglects his duties to secure the area. The reason dancers work at clubs ( instead of attempting to throw parties at hotel rooms and charge for dances there) is for the security. Dancers must pay a “bar fee” in order to work each night. The question is what exactly do dancers pay for and what should they expect in return for their $55, $65, $75 per night fees? There are also tip out fees that go to DJs, house moms, security and even managers each night. When a customer comes into the club, it is clearly acceptable for them to place demands and requests on dancers without regard for any rules or correction by management or security.

I personally know of other behavior occurring Oasis that indirectly resulted in the death of an exotic dancer in April 2007. After working at the club for an unknown length of time, she was told that she no longer had what it took to work as a dancer. Shortly afterward, she committed suicide, leaving a teenaged son behind. I see there are new laws against bullying but there are none to protect exotic dancers from the cruel intentions and lack of concern for the real breadwinners for the establishments. Not only are there no rules regulating how club owners may interact with exotic dancers but there are no ordinances in place to serve as recourse for any dancer to air grievances and disputes before the police and lawyers get involved. Because strip club owners have a tendency to turn on its main attractions, it leaves exotic dancers open to abuse, violence and extortion.

The United Stripper Society wants to end abuse of exotic dancers by customer, managers and club owners alike. When a dancer wants to perform and respect herself, it should not be a problem. No one should expect to suffer physical violence or loss of opportunity to earn money just because she is unwilling to demean, degrade and under-value her services. It is the goal of the United Stripper Society to create additional ordinances to prevail in order to eliminate the grey areas in which deviant customers and immoral club owners abide to exploit of the exotic dancers who earn their living inside adult establishments.

 

Sayuri Smith

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s