'Save Our Stages' Relief Bill May Exclude Strip Clubs Through 'Prurient' Clause

'Save Our Stages' Relief Bill May Exclude Strip Clubs Through 'Prurient' Clause

WASHINGTON — Application for relief under the Save Our Stages Act — designed to subsidize live entertainment venues and businesses affected by the months-long COVID-19 shutdown and incorporated into the $900 billion stimulus bill Congress sent to President Donald Trump for signing today — includes the standard Small Business Administration (SBA)’s discriminatory language that allows disqualification of adult-oriented businesses like strip clubs.

As was the case with the previous pandemic-related relief programs, the “prurient” clause on the SBA loan application form for “Save Our Stages” relief replicates mid-1990s language designed to discriminate against sexually oriented businesses.

The form, as XBIZ reported, compels applicants to declare that they do not “present live performances of a prurient sexual nature or derive directly or indirectly more than de minimis gross revenue through the sale of products or services, or the presentation of any depictions or displays, of a prurient sexual nature.”

The word “prurient” is an imprecise, obscure word that means “appealing to unhealthy sexual interests” and was used by the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark 1973 ruling. Several members of the adult entertainment community and First Amendment lawyers have pointed out that people who do not consider their sexual expression “unhealthy” are exempt from application of the “prurient” clause.

According to reports, strip clubs and the sex workers who rely on that income for their subsistence have been among those most affected by the mandatory COVID-19 shutdowns and social distancing protocols.

'Such a Bipartisan Effort'

The “Save Our Stages” act was introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) in July, and earmarks $10 billion for venue owners, promoters and other live entertainment professionals to use “for rent, utilities, mortgages and PPE, among various costs,” Rolling Stone reported today.

The bill, according to the report, “will allow independent venues, Broadway theaters, museums, talent agencies and managers to apply for grants through the Small Business Administration for six months of financial relief. Applicants will be able to begin petitioning for relief within two weeks of the bill’s passage into law, with grants capped at $10 million for all participants.”

Klobuchar told Rolling Stone that “we have to acknowledge that certain industries are targeted more than other ones by this virus.”

The Minnesota Senator described the final bill as “such a bipartisan effort and it was reflected in the fan base because it went from country music to rap to classical.

Strip clubs, however, could get their loans denied by the discrimination effected by the SBA’s insistence in using the “prurient” clause for their applications.

Clubs Have Sued SBA Over 'Prurient' Clause

Since the beginning of the pandemic, several adult businesses have sued the SBA over the discriminatory language inserted into the earlier “Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security” (CARES) application.

In July, as XBIZ reported, 13 clubs in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado added a lawsuit to ongoing efforts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida to obtain judicial protection for adult-oriented businesses.

The clubs’ lawyers stated that the “prurient” regulation “exceeds congressional authority under the CARES Act and is not the result of reasoned decision-making,” legal news site Law360 reported at the time.

The lawyers also argued that the government was attempting to "saddle those recovery efforts with the irrelevant ballast of decades-old regulations that impermissibly and unconscionably narrow the relief programs."

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