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Nine California Bathhouses, Sex Clubs Oppose New Health Regulations

March 14, 2006

Nine California bathhouses and sex clubs in Los Angeles County on March 3 filed a lawsuit in the county's Superior Court seeking exemption from new county regulations on commercial sex venues, the Los Angeles Times reports (Lin, Los Angeles Times, 3/12). Commercial sex venues are defined in the regulations as "any establishment that charges patrons or members a fee for admission or membership and which as one of its primary purposes allows, facilitates and/or provides facilities for its patrons or members to engage in any high-risk sexual contact while on the premises." The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in September 2004 approved an ordinance requiring commercial sex venues to obtain health permits from the county and adhere to health regulations in order to operate. In January, the board of supervisors voted to approve regulations requiring sex venues to pay an annual fee and follow health rules, including providing on-site HIV testing and counseling. The regulations also require such venues to obtain a health permit from the county and pay an annual fee of $1,088, as well as submit to quarterly inspections. By establishing a fee under the new regulations, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services will conduct inspections and issue permits to the venues. The regulations also require venue owners to post signs prohibiting unprotected sex and to deny entry to customers under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/11). The regulations took effect earlier this month, according to the Times. The nine bathhouses and sex clubs in the lawsuit claim that they "are not commercial sex venues" because they have "always sought to prevent high-risk sex." The suit asks the Superior Court judge to void the regulations or exempt the nine businesses. John Schunhoff, county chief of operations for public health, said a commercial sex venue "doesn't mean that they are promoting high-risk sex; it just means it does occur" (Los Angeles Times, 3/12).

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