Several LGBTQ+ bars in Seattle, including The Cuff Complex and The Seattle Eagle, were raided by local authorities over the weekend, with the owners of the venues alleging that the citations issued were based on patrons’ clothing choices, specifically targeting the queer community.

The Joint Enforcement Team (JET), comprising the Seattle Police and the State Liquor and Cannabis Board, conducted the raids. According to reports by The Stranger, the team inspected 15 venues, including four LGBTQ+ clubs, citing them for “lewd conduct violations.” This action also extended to a college bar, a music venue, and a bowling alley.

Joey Burgess, owner of The Cuff Complex, and Keith Christensen of The Seattle Eagle expressed dismay over the citations, which they believe were unfairly centred on the attire of bartenders and customers, such as exposed nipples and jockstraps. The pair also highlighted that their establishments had no prior records of alcohol or violence-related offences, suggesting a discriminatory motive behind these actions.


“You’re allowed to be who you are in Seattle as long as you don’t go into a gay bar,” Burgess stated, highlighting the seemingly targeted nature of these raids. He pointed out the inconsistency in enforcement, noting that similar attire is acceptable in nearby public spaces like Cal Anderson Park but not in LGBTQ+ bars.

While officials from the Liquor and Cannabis Board insisted that the enforcement actions were not specifically aimed at LGBTQ+ venues, they acknowledged that “lewd-conduct violations” were issued to The Cuff Complex and Neighbours bar. They also mentioned that no clothing-related citations were given to The Seattle Eagle.

In response to these raids, Washington’s Queer and Stripper community activists penned an open letter and initiated a petition criticising the law that bans nudity in alcohol-serving venues. They argue that such regulations disproportionately impact marginalised and non-conforming groups.

Madison Zack-Wu, director of Strippers Are Workers (SAW), calls for a relaxation of these laws, stressing their negative impact on marginalised communities. “These regulations…control people’s bodies and sexualities, pretty much only affect marginalised communities and non-conforming people,” Zack-Wu stated, advocating for the right of these communities to voice opposition against such regulations.

The LGBTQ+ community in Seattle now waits to see the outcome of these discussions and the future approach of the authorities towards their safe spaces.