Strip club bill likely dead for the year

COLUMBIA -- A bill that would ban lap dances at S.C. strip clubs has stalled in a House committee less than a week after lawmakers began discussing the measure.

The House Judiciary Committee, with a voice vote, agreed to hand the bill off to a different committee for more study.

Some lawmakers think the move means the bill is unlikely to be heard from again this year.

"I hope that's not the case," said Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, who introduced two amendments to the bill, which requires exotic dancers to keep a six-foot distance between themselves and customers. The bill also would require all sexually oriented businesses to close at midnight.

Smith's amendments, deemed "overkill" by some committee members, would have made each incidence of a patron coming closer than six feet to a dancer a separate violation, meaning patrons and dancers each could accumulate thousands of dollars in fines in one visit and be subject to years of prison.

Smith's other amendment would have made it a misdemeanor violation against the club or establishment if the business operator "knowingly and willfully" allowed such violations to occur.

Rep. David Weeks, D-Sumter, said some members of the Criminal Laws Committee, which will handle the bill, were concerned about whether the bill is constitutional.

"I think it's dead for the year," Weeks said.