Vice laws: Are they necessary in this day and age?

In this week's River­ward Rant, colum­nist Joe Quigley looks at Vice laws, and de­tails why, he feels, the city might be bet­ter off not en­for­cing them.

I re­mem­ber read­ing something in the Con­sti­tu­tion about a sep­ar­a­tion of church and state.

Isn’t it some­where in the be­gin­ning?

Some politi­cians seem to have skipped that part.

Maybe we should re­mind our loc­al and state gov­ern­ment that they really shouldn’t be us­ing re­li­gion as a basis for toss­ing people in jail or shut­ting down their busi­nesses.

Be­cause that’s ex­actly what our gov­ern­ment does every day.


Why else do we toss pros­ti­tutes in jail? Why else does our gov­ern­ment think it has the right to tell busi­nesses where and when they can sell us al­co­hol?

Vice law, baby.

Philly has a whole squad of po­lice of­ficers — un­der the com­mand of Lt. Charlie Green — who do noth­ing but toss people in jail for en­ga­ging in “vice” activ­it­ies.

But it’s not like mod­ern folks (i.e. people who are still alive) just got to­geth­er and said, “Oh, the ser­vices that strip­pers of­fer in the pri­vacy of a VIP room must be judged by us, we who have high­er mor­al au­thor­ity!”


I’m sure vice laws are based on Chris­ti­an re­li­gious thought from an­cient his­tory. As in, “Sunday is the Sab­bath, so, not all li­quor stores can be open on Sunday!”

By that same lo­gic, Jew­ish cit­izens could de­mand that li­quor stores be closed on Fri­day even­ing to Sat­urday night.

On March 28, the Pennsylvania Sen­ate passed a bill — it still must clear the state House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives — that would al­low Pennsylvani­ans to have do­mest­ic wines shipped to their houses.

This is pro­gress.

However, it also begs the ques­tion: Why on Earth does some politi­cian out in Har­ris­burg have the right to tell me where I get my booze?

As long as I’m not hurt­ing any­one else (like, say, buy­ing black-mar­ket vodka in front of a preschool), it’s nobody’s busi­ness.

Sim­il­arly, for the last few months, the city­wide vice unit has been spend­ing lots of time and money bust­ing strip clubs for pros­ti­tu­tion. Per­son­ally, I don’t want my tax dol­lars spent on mon­it­or­ing the busi­ness strategies of strip­pers.

What strip­pers and their cus­tom­ers do in a se­cluded area of a privately owned busi­ness is none of our con­cern.

I’ll cla­ri­fy that state­ment by say­ing that it’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent story if these strip clubs are be­com­ing a nuis­ance for nearby res­id­ents.

If the clubs at­tract vi­ol­ence and oth­er bad things that spill out to the sur­round­ing area, by all means shut it down.

But, let’s take for ex­ample, the Pent­house Club in Port Rich­mond. There have been a few at­tempts to shut this place down, but how many times has the Pent­house caused vi­ol­ence in the area?

I work right around the corner from the Pent­house and, sorry vice-law lov­ers, but I find that little sec­tion of Port Rich­mond is just as quiet and un­event­ful as it was be­fore the club opened.

But with these vice laws on the books, the cops and the gov­ern­ment will find ways to stick their noses in­to the private lives of people who are en­ga­ging in “im­mor­al” activ­it­ies that don’t con­cern the gen­er­al pub­lic.

Now, if your hus­band or wife is a ra­ging al­co­hol­ic who con­stantly blows your sav­ings on go-go dan­cers, that is a prob­lem.

It is, however, a per­son­al prob­lem.

In Novem­ber, a num­ber of people who wanted the Pent­house Club shut down com­plained that their hus­bands were spend­ing all their money on strip­pers and booze.

All I can say is this: Dump the guy! He’s a loser and you nev­er should have mar­ried him in the first place.

What you shouldn’t do is call the cops.

Your guy with the wan­der­ing eyes is none of the gov­ern­ment’s busi­ness.

The same way the state Sen­ate should have no in­terest what­so­ever about wheth­er I re­ceive a bottle of wine in the mail.

It’s time for vice laws to go.

Our gov­ern­ment — loc­al, state and fed­er­al — wastes money and time when it shoves it­self in­to our private af­fairs.

Do­ing so on re­li­gious grounds is even worse be­cause, really, it’s un­con­sti­tu­tion­al. ••

 ldquo;River­ward Rants” re­flects the opin­ions of Joe Quigley, a Fishtown res­id­ent, area nat­ive and writer of the Web site PhillyNeigh­, where he makes cyn­ic­al (and un­censored) com­ments about life in the river­wards. He can be reached at

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