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Bill lifting some alcohol restrictions moves to Idaho House

Statehouse spring cropped

The Idaho Statehouse. A House Panel has approved legislation that lifts Idaho’s ban on nudity and explicit live performances at some businesses that serve alcohol. File photo.

A House panel on March 23 narrowly approved legislation repealing Idaho’s ban on nudity and explicit live performances at certain businesses licensed to serve alcohol.

The proposal is part of a legal settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and the state attorney general’s office. The exemption requires that such performances would have to be held at venues like a theater, concert hall or some other form of businesses that do not primarily derive its business from explicit live adult entertainment. That means Idaho businesses like strip clubs would still be banned from serving alcohol.

“If there was a bar who changed their business model to include ‘Shakespeare in the Buff’ and that becomes their predominant business model, then I can’t say they would or not would be cited because undercover officers would have to look at the legitimacy of that claim,” said Cynthia Yee-Wallace, a deputy attorney with the attorney general’s office. “Are they saying it’s ‘Shakespeare in the Buff’? Or are they just naked and reading Shakespeare on stage?”

The House State Affairs Committee, arguably made up of the most conservative members in the Legislature, voted 8-6 to send the exemption bill to the House floor without discussing the bill.

Prior to the bill’s hearing, Chairman Tom Loertscher requested that all young people — such as high school groups visiting the Capitol and teenage pages — in the audience leave the room because they would be discussing sensitive subjects.

Rep. Thomas Loertscher

Rep. Thomas Loertscher

“The language in here is quite graphic,” said Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.

Last year, two undercover Idaho State Police detectives were served alcohol while watching a burlesque show performed by Anne McDonald at Boise’s Visual Arts Collective in March. The ISP filed a complaint alleging that the art gallery failed to prevent the exposure of some parts of the female performers’ bodies in violation of state law.

Idaho lawmakers had just repealed a similar section of the same law for Idaho movie theaters after a theater sued when its liquor license was threatened for showing “Fifty Shades of Grey” while serving alcohol. However, the Republican-dominated Legislature did not repeal the ban on live performances.

This oversight prompted the ACLU to file a lawsuit against the state arguing that the current statute is too broad and violated the First Amendment’s free speech protections. That lawsuit has since been placed on hold to allow the Legislature to repeal certain sections of the state’s strict liquor laws.

SB 1144 must pass the House before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.

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