Could Stormy Daniels have been arrested in Pittsburgh?

She performed at Blush in May.

Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, is pictured in a mugshot taken after her arrest in Columbus, Ohio, on July 11, 2018.

Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, is pictured in a mugshot taken after her arrest in Columbus, Ohio, on July 11, 2018.


Updated: 5:21 p.m. 

Stormy Daniels was arrested Wednesday in Ohio while performing a routine similar to what she did at a Pittsburgh nightclub two months ago.

Her Ohio performance — and arrest — took place at a Columbus club, where officers saw Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) fondle the breasts of female patrons before touching both male and female police officers who were in the audience, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said the officers were undercover.

The charges were dropped Thursday afternoon, hours after they were filed.

Daniels’ lawyer called the arrest a setup. A former Trump aide called it entrapment. Local police called it a routine use of a regularly enforced statute.

Under Ohio law, strip club performers are barred from touching patrons, except for family members, and vice versa. 

There was no such kerfuffle when Daniels performed Downtown in May at Blush as part of her “Make America Horny Again” tour.

In her Pittsburgh performance, Daniels did a similar routine to the one that got her arrested in Columbus.

Here, “[The crowd] whooped and hollered throughout her set and got even louder when Daniels paused occasionally to use her bosom to scoop dollar bills from the mouths of fans seated at the foot of the stage,” The Incline previously reported. This contact was repeated throughout the performance.

Daniels, an adult film star who also snagged cameos in mainstream films like Judd Apatow’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” is perhaps best known as an antagonist to President Donald Trump.

She’s sued the president, his personal lawyer and her former attorney, whom she accused of conspiring against her. Daniels claims to have had a sexual affair with Trump roughly a decade ago, though he denies the claim. She’s publicly detailed the affair and claims of a $130,000 hush money payment from a Trump lawyer.

READ MORE: Stormy Daniels, the ‘most famous pornstar in the world,’ came to Pittsburgh

While Pennsylvania does regulate aspects of strip club operations, its laws are less specific than Ohio’s, and regulatory power largely rests with Pennsylvania’s local municipalities.

Corey Silverstein, a Michigan-based attorney focused, according to his website, “on all of the unique issues that involve the adult industry,” said laws governing strip club conduct vary extensively from state to state.

“It’s insanely different from state to state, because in some states the rules depend on what hour or time of day it is and if the person is consuming alcohol when the contact occurs, for example. Also, some states require a dancer’s nipples be covered. In some states full nudity is allowed but not where liquor is served. It’s all over the place,” he said.

Silverstein added that laws like the one in Ohio are common but often rarely enforced.

“You don’t hear a lot about this happening because in my opinion this is a complete waste of law enforcement resources,” he said of Daniels’ arrest.

Silverstein said there are typically multiple layers of regulation applied to strip clubs: the first involving conditions imposed through their liquor license and beyond that what’s imposed by their local municipality, county or state.

Previously, Pennsylvania clubs that served liquor were prohibited from allowing “lewd, immoral or improper entertainment, or permit[ting] entertainers to be in contact or associate with patrons for a lewd, immoral or unlawful purpose.” That applied to liquor license holders and not performers, according to Ryan Tarkowski, communications director with the Pennsylvania State Police in Harrisburg.

But the “lewd, immoral or improper entertainment” provision of the liquor code was vague and ultimately thrown out by a court in 2006 for being overly broad.

Absent that, Tarkowski said there are no such restrictions under Pennsylvania’s liquor law. Additionally, charges of Indecent Exposure and Open Lewdness don’t apply because, as Tarkowski explained, they “require the individual to know people present would be offended, affronted, or alarmed.” In the case of an adult entertainment venue, it would be hard to argue that any performer should or would expect such sensitivity on the part of audience members.

For these reasons, Tarkowski said “it appears Ms. Daniels would have been in the clear under the PA Code.” He added, “Of course, local ordinances may vary.”

In states like Pennsylvania, they very often do. In fact, the lion’s share of control over strip club operations belongs to local officials here.

Pennsylvania courts have upheld a municipality’s ability to enact and enforce licensing requirements for “adult-oriented businesses” and their employees, the Pennsylvania Legislator’s Municipal Deskbook reports.

The deskbook adds: “These regulations have involved hours of operation, imposed a minimal distance between exotic dancers and patrons, required employee background checks, and provided for warrantless inspections of AOBs during business hours as well as reasonable administrative fees.”

Pittsburgh law restricts where strip clubs or adult theaters can be located. The law is less explicit in governing what happens inside, though efforts to change that have been undertaken in recent years, including a 2011 proposal by Council Member Theresa Kail-Smith that would have ratcheted up oversight and restrictions.

That legislation was ultimately tabled.

Kail-Smith told The Incline by phone today that she wasn’t opposed to strip clubs but rather in favor of better regulation and more public input.

“I wasn’t against strip clubs. I talked to SEIU about unionizing dancers,” she said, adding, “I don’t care what [clubs] you put where, but the public has a right to due process.”