Player's Club, an adult-entertainment venue in Adams County, has dropped a lawsuit filed against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, among others, over a requirement that patrons stay at least 25 feet away from dancers following Player's Club's designation as a COVID-19 outbreak site.
This course change was prompted by an agreement with Player's Club owner Chris Fuselier, whose other properties include Blake Street Tavern, brokered by the Colorado Attorney General's Office. The July 16 letter from assistant attorney general W. Eric Kuhn to attorneys Jordan Factor and Brenton L. Gragg of Denver-based Allen Vellone Wolf Helfrich & Factor P.C., who filed the complaint on behalf of the business (and have not responded to multiple interview requests), outlines safety procedures that satisfied the CDPHE — among them strict mask wearing by performers while dancing and elsewhere in the club, and the erection of a plexiglass barrier between the stage and customers.
The agreement also mandates that entertainers clean both the stage floor and the pole used for dance routines after the completion of sets. Moreover, routines are limited to ten minutes so that dancers don't become over-exerted — presumably because intense physical activity could cause heavy breathing that might further spread the virus if the dancer is infected but asymptomatic, and so still working.
On or about June 24, according to the suit, Player's Club notified an inspector with the Tri-County Health Department, whose jurisdiction includes Adams County, that three of its employees had COVID-19; the CDPHE's just-issued July 22 report puts the current total at five. In response, the inspector presented Player's Club management with "a set of written requirements that Plaintiff must satisfy before it may reopen for business," with the 25-foot rule chief among them. (Twenty-five feet of distancing between performers and audience members is a standard under current state guidelines, unless a venue obtains a variance.) But Player's Club considered that dictate a deal-breaker, since "Plaintiff’s entertainers seek to create erotic art and such eroticism requires less distance than 25 feet to be effectively communicated to the patrons. Therefore, the Spacing Requirement makes it impossible for Plaintiff and its entertainers to perform their art."
Now the 25-foot edict has been waived after Player's Club agreed to adjustments such as the plexiglass barriers, which basically encase the stage; they feature a cut-out for dancers to enter and exit. And for now, taking it all off won't include removing a facial covering.
Here's the text of the letter from the Colorado Attorney General's Office:
Dear Jordan and Brenton:
Thank you for your time yesterday morning. We appreciated time for representatives of our client, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to meet with Chris Fuselier, the owner of Player's Club.
Mr. Fuselier has provided CDPHE with a written description of the disease prevention protocols that Player's Club has in place, provided an additional description of those protocols on our call, and provided photographs showing the layout of plexiglass partitions in the club.
The disease prevention measures Player's Club has documented include:
• Dancers have a separate entrance/exit and do not interact with the crowd in person (no speaking, no touching).
• Dancers wear masks at all times in the club.
• Temperature checks are given to staff/dancers before and after their shifts.
• Patrons also have their temperature checked before being allowed to enter the club.
• The stages all have plexiglass barriers installed. The barriers span from the ceiling to within two inches of the floor of the stage. The barriers run horizontally from one wall almost to the opposite wall. There is a cut out space so that the dancer can enter/exit the stage.
• Dancers and patrons remain at least six feet apart.
• The dancers wipe down the pole on the pole dancing stage after each set. The dancers also wipe down the floor on each of the stages after the set.
• A dancer performs a three song set, which runs approximately 10 minutes.
• The dancers do not have a heavy level of exertion during their dance performance.
• The dancer does not interact with the crowd after a set, but returns to a dressing room through a separate exit.
• Patrons are required to wear masks at all times, except when eating and drinking.
CDPHE's Public Health Order 20-28 requires that performers in a restaurant or bar must maintain a minimum of 25 feet of distance from the patrons.... After reviewing the information that you have provided, CDPHE has determined that the measures Player's Club has put into place are at least as effective at preventing disease transmission as those advanced by this requirement in the public health order.
Accordingly, CDPHE has determined that Player's Club may continue to operate under the measures it has in place in lieu of the 25 foot requirement. As long as Player's Club continues to operate with these alternative measures in place, it does not have to comply with the 25 foot requirement as long as Player's Club continues to operate with these alternative measures in place.
Counsel for Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) has authorized me to state that TCHD is following CDPHE guidance on this matter, and that TCHD will not take any action to enforce the 25 foot requirement as long as Player's Club continues to operate with these alternative measures in place.
This determination does not alter Player's Club's obligation to comply with all other requirements of the state or local public health orders. If facts or circumstances in Player's Club change in a way that would affect this determination, please reach out to us to discuss the matter. We are also happy to answer any questions moving forward.
It is our understanding that application of the 25 foot requirement is the only issue between the parties. As such, we believe this determination will also resolve the issues in litigation. We expect that counsel for the parties will execute a stipulation for dismissal.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions.
For the General
W. Eric Kuhn
Senior Assistant Attorney General
Health Care Unit
State Services Section
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.