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October 24, 2021

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Nye County scraps proposed stricter ‘lockdown’ policy for legal brothels

Pahrump Brothels

Steve Marcus

An exterior view of the Chicken Ranch legal brothel in Pahrump, Nev. Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

Pahrump Brothels

An exterior view of the Chicken Ranch legal brothel in Pahrump, Nev. Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Launch slideshow »

Nye County will not tighten the hours when legal prostitutes are permitted to leave licensed brothels, according to the latest draft of a proposed amended ordinance on the county’s prostitution rules.

An earlier version of the draft ordinance would have prohibited legal prostitutes in Nye County from leaving brothels for more than six hours within a 10-day period and outside the hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. If they failed to follow that rule, the county would have required them to re-test for venereal diseases and HIV, which legal prostitutes must already do weekly under Nevada law.

The latest version of the proposed changes reverts to the current language in place, which says that prostitutes in Nye County cannot leave brothels for more than 24 hours at a time without retesting. All medical testing costs are incurred by prostitutes.

The decision to keep the current language came from the County Manager’s Office, said county spokesperson Arnold Knightly. The county received criticism from some sex workers and advocates and on social media about the previously proposed changes, Knightly said.

“We saw feedback and concerns, and we rejected the (proposed) language,” he said.

Sex workers were not included in initial conversations about the proposed changes to the hours when prostitutes could leave brothels, sometimes referred to as “lockdown policies,” Nye County Commission Chair John Koenig said last week. That appears to have changed.

Alice Little, a sex worker at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Lyon County, said the sex worker community is thrilled that the county responded to concerns of hers and others in the industry.

“We’re just so excited. (This) is kind of changing the narrative in the sense that we’re having conversations together. There’s reciprocity happening in both directions,” Little said.

Advocates now want the county to consider scrapping the 24-hour rule entirely to allow prostitutes, who are independent contractors under Nevada law, to better balance their work and lives.

The county has maintained that the rule is necessary to reduce the risk of sex workers having unprotected sex while off the premises of a brothel. But sex workers say that the rule, which isn’t present in Lyon County and other rural Nevada counties where prostitution is legal, has no impact on worker and customer safety and only stigmatizes prostitutes.

One prostitute at the Chicken Ranch in Pahrump wrote a blog post addressed to commissioners that outlines how the 24-hour rule poses a burden for legal sex workers like herself. Because of the existing law and current brothel policies at the Chicken Ranch, prostitute Kourtney Chase says she is unable to go home at night and see her 2-year-old son when she is not working.

“We have families and a life outside of our work at the brothel. Many have goals of obtaining a degree or opening a business,” Chase wrote on the Nevada Brothel Association’s blog. “Lockdown policies interfere with the amount of freedom we have to be able to do those things or spend time with our loved ones.”

Knightly said he is unsure if the county will consider removing the 24-hour rule, noting that it has been the law for years. Advocates and some industry representatives are nonetheless hopeful.

“Now there’s an opportunity to do the right thing, sort of connect with these commissioners and try to persuade them to repeal the 24-hour rule,” said Jeremy Lemur, a public relations representative for sex workers. “I’d hope that this movement, if you will, would have momentum in order to do that.”

The amended Nye County ordinance, County Bill 2019-07, will be introduced at the Oct. 15 county commission meeting. A public hearing on the bill, which could change more in the coming months, is currently set for Dec. 17, according to county documents.