Saskatoon

Suicide Girls cancel show in Saskatoon over 'absurd' adult services bylaw

A group of Los Angeles-based self-described alternative pin-up girls cancelled their "Blackheart Burlesque" show in downtown Saskatoon last night for fear of being jailed or fined under the city's adult services bylaw.

Performers say O'Brians manager cancelled performance after warnings from city bylaw inspectors

A performance of Suicide Girls' "Blackheart Burlesque" was canceled by O'Brian's Event Centre Sunday night, after the venue's manager became concerned about violating Saskatoon's Adult Services bylaw. (Facebook/Blackheart Burlesque)

Date night was cut short on Sunday for a Saskatoon couple looking to take in a burlesque show at O'Brians Events Centre.

At Christmas, Rochelle Haubrich stuffed her fiance's stocking with a pair of tickets to Blackheart Burlesque, the latest production by the Los Angeles-based Suicide Girls.

But before Haubrich and her fiancé could walk in, they were greeted by a sign on the door saying the show was cancelled. The City of Saskatoon says the performers failed to obtain a licence under Saskatoon's Adult Services Bylaw.
Rochelle Haubrich bought her fiancé two tickets to the Blackheart Burlesque Sunday night in Saskatoon. But the venue was forced to pull the show after warnings from the city stating the show did not have the proper licencing to perform. (Don Somers/CBC)

"It's disappointing," Haubrich told CBC News. "I think it's a little ridiculous, it's 2016 and if consenting adults want to pay money to go see a show that they are well aware of what was going to happen, I think that's fine."

It wasn't a total loss for ticket holders who had the chance to meet the performers, share pizza, and take pictures inside the venue. But Haubrich wonders if the Suicide Girls will come back to Saskatoon after having the show pulled at the last minute.

Missy Suicide, founder of the Suicide Girls, said the manager at O'Brians Events Centre told them not to perform after receiving warnings from city bylaw inspectors.

"How are you going to decide if something is or is not acceptable to do with our bodies?" asked Suicide, in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "What are you preventing? Like what exactly are you saving the public from?"

In December, Saskatoon city council passed its Adult Services bylaw, prohibiting unlicensed lingerie modeling, striptease, and services "designed to appeal to sexual or erotic appetites."
The Suicide Girls were forced to cancel their show in Saskatoon on Sunday after they were warned they didn't have the appropriate licencing from the City of Saskatoon. 1:05

Condemns 'absurd' adult services bylaw

Officials with the city say no one from the venue or the Suicide Girls applied for a licence to perform. Licences range from $250 for an individual, to $500 for a group.

"It's just absurd, really. It's almost like a Footloose type of law," said Suicide. "We expect so much more from Canada."

She said O'Brians Event Centre booked Suicide Girls through LiveNation almost a year ago.

"In the deep South we've altered our show to perform with full coverage bras and panties and such," Suicide said.

"It's unfortunate for our show, but we understand different areas. But we've never had to deal with such restrictive and vague law."

City: bylaw in place to protect performers

City of Saskatoon manager Andrew Hildebrandt told CBC the city has no problem with the content of the show, but that no one involved with the show submitted an application for an adult services business licence.

"If an application like this would have been received in the appropriate amount of time, they could have been approved and things could have gone on as necessary," Hildebrandt said. "But we didn't find out about it until it was too late and the event venue manager decided to cancel the show."

Hildebrandt said the city has 60 days to turn around and issue a licence, but often processes them more quickly. The city recently issued an adult services business licence for a performance at TCU Place in June: The Naked Magic Show.

O'Brians manager Vince Geiger said he and the performers tried to modify the show so it would not be considered an "adult service". However, he said the guidelines on what constituted an "adult service" were too vague. He said he and the performers' managers jointly decided to cancel the show, to avoid risking fines or jail time.

"With the lingerie modelling part, we didn't have any guidelines as far as what clothing they could wear," Geiger said, adding he also didn't know what constituted "body rubbing" and whether any performers could touch each other during the show.

Ticket holders getting refunds

Missy Suicide said the show at O'Brians was not cancelled due to slow ticket sales.

"They were actually really good for Saskatoon on a Sunday," she said. "If they'd given us a bit more notice we could've worked it out."

She said anyone who bought tickets would get their money back. Rochelle Haubrich said she received her refund on Monday, but she wishes she could have seen the show she paid for.

"The adult services bylaw wants to protect people in the sex trade and I totally understand that. It's reasonable but I think they need to go through and edit what they're kind of protecting," she said.

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