L.A. County Considers Bathhouse Laws

Ed Palomar
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has tentatively passed a new law that would impose new health ordinances on bathhouses and sex clubs. If the Los Angeles City Council also passes the law, commercial sex venues (CSVs) would be required to obtain a public health facility permit from the health officer.

AIDs Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Communications Director Ged Kenslea said that the previous health-related stipulations in the county’s code regarding CSVs “were not enforced and were not mandatory.” Under the new law, at least nine bathhouses and two sex clubs located in L.A. county where sexual activity is believed to take place will be required to comply with CSV guidelines in order to obtain and keep permits.

The new law would allow inspectors to make unannounced visits to CSVs during peak hours of operation. CSVs would be required to offer HIV testing and counseling, provide condoms and post signs that detail the new regulations. Engaging in unprotected sex can result in the revocation of permits and closing of CSVs.

L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding said: “We certainly have a public health risk.” In 2001 and 2002, a federally funded study found that 11 percent of the customers at two L.A. bathhouses tested positive for HIV.

Kenslea told XBiz, “four AHF representatives testified in favor of the ordinance at the board’s regular weekly meeting.” While he himself did not testify before the board, Kenslea did attend the session.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see that while there was some disagreement over specific components of the ordinance, nobody opposed the ordinance,” Kenslea said. “No bar owners spoke out against it. There seems to be a consensus. Our eyes are on the prize – the principal components of the ordinance.”

The measure can’t go into effect until the Board of Supervisors votes Sept. 14 on the new ordinance and gives the measure final approval. Then the L.A. City Council must also pass the regulations before they become law.