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AGO 1953 No. 115 - August 14, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


1. Provisions of chapter 67.12 RCW on public dances do not apply within corporate limits of city or town.

2. Municipal corporation with sufficient police power may regulate public dances within the corporate limits, by ordinance, and may prohibit operation of public dances on Sunday.

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                                                                 August 14, 1953

Honorable Delbert R. Scoles
Prosecuting Attorney
Stevens County
Colville, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 115

Dear Sir:

            By letter under date of August 5, 1953, you have requested the opinion of this office on two questions which may be summarized as follows:

            1. Are the requirements of RCW 67.12.040, relating to the conduct of public dances, effective within the corporate limits of a city or town?

            2. Can the governing body of a city or town regulate the operation of public dances within its jurisdiction by ordinance?

            In our opinion, the answer to your first question is "No;" the answer to your second question is "Yes."


            Those provisions of chapter 67.12 RCW which apply to public dances are directly derived from chapter 111, Laws of 1923.  No amendment has intervened.  The title of chapter 111 declares that it is

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "AN ACT providing for the regulation and licensing of public dances and dance‑hallswithout the corporate limits of incorporated cities and towns, and providing penalties for the violation thereof."  (Italics supplied)

            It is true that the italicized limitation is found in RCW 67.12.020, and not in RCW 67.12.040.  But the title of the original enactment indicates clearly that no part of the statute was intended to apply inside the limits of incorporated cities and towns.  It follows as a matter of course that the governing body of a city or town could not enforce any provision of that law as such.

            In answer to your second inquiry, it is generally held that a city may by ordinance impose regulations upon public dances.  See extensive annotation in 48 A.L.R. 177.  The Washington law seems quite firmly fixed to that effect.  Bungalow Amusement Co. v. Seattle, 148 Wash. 485, 269 Pac. 1043;Manos v. Seattle, 146 Wash. 210, 262 Pac. 965.  Inasmuch as the parts of chapter 67.12 RCW which cover public dances must be considered declarative of public policy we have no doubt that an ordinance which placed similar regulations upon public dances within the limits of a municipal corporation would be valid.

            The only statutory provision of which we know relating to the conduct of such activities on Sunday is RCW 9.76.010, setting out a penalty for Sabbath breaking, which provides in part:

            "Every person who, on the first day of the week, promotes any noisy or boisterous sport or amusement, disturbing the peace of the day * * * shall be guilty of a misdemeanor:  * * *"

            In the case ofIn re Ferguson, 80 Wash. 102, 141 Pac. 322, the court had before it an ordinance enacted by a city of the third class, which provided:

            "It shall be unlawful for any person * * * to keep open, run, manage, or conduct any * * * moving picture show, * * * manage or conduct any * * * dance hall or dance pavilion, * * * or to engage in any of the said business or amusements * * * on the first day of the week commonly calledSunday: * * *" (Italics added)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The court held that this was a valid police regulation, not being in conflict with any general laws, despite the very sweeping nature of the ordinance; and stated that it constituted a regulation, not a prohibition of the businesses named.  Both theBungalow case and the Manos case, supra, hold that public dances might be completely proscribed by a city of the first class, since the legislature has delegated full police powers to such cities.  We believe that most cities have sufficient police power to place a regulation of the nature indicated upon public dances.

            We conclude:

            First, that the provisions of chapter 67.12 RCW on public dances do not apply within the corporate limits of a city or town; and

            Second, that if sufficient police power has been granted by the legislature to the particular municipal corporation, the corporation may by ordinance regulate public dances, or prohibit operation of such dances on Sunday.

            We hope the foregoing discussion will prove to be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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