California county ready to open strip clubs while churches remain closed

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In one California county, bare butts and boobs matter — churches not so much.

Strip clubs in San Diego County were reportedly allowed to reopen last week, even as churches there and in at least 17 other counties remain shuttered because of strict coronavirus lockdown restrictions by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In fairness to Newsom, reopening strip clubs wasn’t his idea.

Last month, San Diego County officials issued cease-and-desist orders after it learned that two strip clubs — Pacers Showgirls International and Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club — were still operating. In response, the clubs filed suit.

“A lawsuit that the clubs filed against the county in October alleges that the county’s public health orders, which prohibit live entertainment but that don’t specifically mention adult entertainment, violate the businesses’ constitutional rights of due process and equal protection under the law, arguing that other establishments, from restaurants to comedy clubs, have been allowed to host “considerable live entertainment,” the Los Angeles Times notes.

County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency deputy health officer Dr. Wilmja J. Wooten, reportedly pushed back by arguing that the issue was live music.

“On June 12, 2020, Dr. Wooten was specifically asked during a press conference if live music would be allowed in restaurants and bars under the County’s orders,” court documents filed by San Diego County read.

“Dr. Wooten explained that it was not because it ‘encourages people to get up and start dancing,’ and Dr. Wooten did not want people to engage in such activity. Shortly after the press-conference, Dr. Wooten issued a revised order specifying that ‘[d]ance floors shall be closed and performances such as musical or dance acts that encourage large gatherings shall be discontinued.'”

However, Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil of the Superior Court of San Diego County didn’t buy the tale she was telling and chose late last week to issue a temporary injunction against the cease-and-desist orders.

View the order below:

Temporary Injunction Agains… by V Saxena

“[T]he County appears to have loosely, if not arbitrarily, enforced this prohibition,” he wrote in his ruling.

As evidence, he pointed to the “declaration of Trever Shamshoian,” a local industry expert.

“I have monitored what other entertainment venues and restaurants have done during the COVID-19 closures and restrictions, and there is considerable live entertainment being permitted in the County of San Diego. Venues that have live music according to information I have gathered include the Inn at Rancho Bernardo, McP’s Irish Pub in Coronado, the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, and Fluxx Nightclub to name just a few,” his testimony reads.

“I am also aware that the County has also allowed stand-up comedy at venues such as the Comedy Palace and other comedy venues, as apparently these venues have the ear of council member Chris Cate.”

While this is certainly good news for San Diego County strip clubs and their boob-loving patrons, it’s being perceived as a slap in the face to those of faith.

“If you’re going to accept that argument that dancing nude is protected speech that’s so significant that it overcomes the government’s interest in regulating its citizens with COVID-19 orders, then obviously the divine worship of God, which is expressly mentioned in the First Amendment, should be held to a higher standard,” attorney Paul Jonna said to the Washington Free Beacon.

Jonna works with the Thomas More Society, which is currently representing a group of California churches that are challenging the state’s strict coronavirus restrictions.

Over in San Diego County meanwhile, this week, officials rolled back the county’s reopening by shuttering indoor fitness, indoor dining and indoor shopping.

“San Diego County fell back to the most restrictive purple tier of state’s coronavirus tracking system Tuesday, meaning indoor restaurants will have to move to outdoor service only, retail businesses will have to further limit capacity and schools will be unable to shift to in- person learning,” local station KUSI reported.

Thanks to Wohlfeil’s order, however, strip clubs get to remain open …

To be clear, the issue isn’t a belief that Wohlfeil’s order is somehow wrong but rather a belief that the order ought to be universal and apply to every business.

“A judge who understands the Constitution will recognize the absurdity of the current state of the law. I think it’s a good sign that judges are starting to question whether the government has a legitimate interest in regulating any business or industry at this point,” Jonna said to the Free Beacon.

At least one San Diego County supervisor agrees:

But unfortunately,  neither one agreeing supervisor nor one agreeing judge is enough to make a tangible long-term difference.

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Vivek Saxena

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