Saskatchewan government peels back decision on licensed strip clubs

REGINA — Premier Brad Wall says the government is reversing its decision to allow licensed strip clubs because it is concerned about human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

He says he believes it was a mistake to change provincial liquor laws last year to allow partial stripping in bars.

“If by this decision we have inadvertently allowed for even a marginal increase in the chance for human trafficking, it’s the wrong decision,” Wall said Wednesday.

“Let’s make sure we’re not allowing any opportunity for organized crime to increase its footprint.”

Don Verstraeten owns the Codette Hotel near Nipawin, which is about 150 kilometres east of Prince Albert. The hotel and bar has had strip shows on weekends since the regulations changed in January 2014.

He said under the current provincial law, dancers can strip down to pasties and underwear.

“There’s no nudity,” he said. “You can see more on HBO.”

Verstraeten said he’s disappointed by Wall’s announcement.

“I’m the only real club that’s running right now. Everything is so (above) board, it’s a shame.”

He said the change will hurt his employees. “There’s no need to have all those girls on staff if there’s no entertainment here.”

Verstraeten, who has worked in Ontario, said Saskatchewan’s laws are archaic compared to other provinces.

“Here this is completely tame compared to what I’ve seen in any other province.

“All of a sudden they’re going to take two step backwards,” he said. “I don’t understand it.”

Wall said he wants business owners to know the change is coming so they don’t apply for licences from municipal authorities.

He said it will take a few weeks to reverse the regulation.

In January, Regina city councillors voted to reject a proposal for the city’s first licensed strip club. The concept had been approved by the city’s planning commission.

“I’m sure there will be people who are critical of our decision and some who will be supportive,” Wall said. “We needed to confirm that we think we made a mistake and we’re fixing it.”

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