Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
|Silk Exotic is a Milwaukee Gentlemen's Club at 11400 West Silver Spring Rd. in Milwaukee. (Photo: Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)|
Exotic dancers deserve paycheck protection, too, according to a federal lawsuit filed by Wisconsin strip club owners -- though its not clear they would get any directly even if the owners win.
The suit against the U.S. Small Business Administration seeks emergency court action to preserve some of the Paycheck Protection Plan's $350 billion for relief for strip club employees and dancers whose livelihoods have been curtailed because the clubs have not been deemed essential operations and are closed during a public health emergency.
The PPP, part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is meant to cover small businesses payrolls for eight weeks, and some other expenses, until the anticipated end of stay-at-home orders allow them to restart normal operations. If employers do not fire or cut their workers' pay, the loans are forgiven.
The SBA's regulations governing the PPP exclude certain businesses from eligibility, including those that, "Present live performances of a prurient sexual nature."
Local banks, which administer the PPP, have read that regulation to deny applications from strip club owners, according to the suit, filed in federal court in Milwaukee.
The club owners' lawsuit contends that the clubs' erotic entertainment is lawful and protected by the First Amendment.
"All of the entertainment provided by Silk is non-obscene (and not prurient), appeals to healthy human interests and desires, and is in full compliance with the numerous licenses and permits that are held by the Plaintiffs and have been reviewed by municipal authorities and renewed annually," the suit states.
"None of the live performances at Silk are obscene or unlawful in any way."
The separate businesses that own the four Silk Exotic clubs use the same bookkeeper who applied for the PPP program funds through Associated Bank on April 3, and was informed on April 6 that all four applications were being denied.