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If town officials have their way, Ventspils soon will have the safest, best-run brothel on the Baltic Sea, and the only legal one in the Soviet Union.
Sailors from the 3, ships that dock in Ventspils each year would be able to patronize a privately owned, state-regulated hotel with registered prostitutes who pay taxes and are under medical supervision. Authorities not only know prostitutes operate in the city, Bozhko said, but where they can be found: at the Cosmos, a dimly lit place where sailors drink. A recent evening visit to the Cosmos, on a central, tree-lined street, found it to be like many other Soviet restaurants, with a floor show featuring scantily clad women dancing to American-style pop music.
Many patrons were bleached blondes in heavy makeup, miniskirts and spiked heels. No rowdy sailors were visible. The plan approved in principle by the member council is designed to legalize prostitution but not to encourage it. Prostitutes who refused to register would be subject to much more serious penalties than under current law, which Bozhko said prescribes fines of rubles for a first offense and up to for subsequent ones, with no jail time.
Since a dollar buys as many as 15 rubles on the black market, the fines are not much of a deterrent, Lembergs said. Most police officers, doctors and political leaders in Ventspils appear to favor the plan, Bozhko said, and predicted that the Latvian government also would approve. If the idea works, it may be tried in Riga, capital of Latvia, where there was a legal brothel in the s, Bozhko said.
He added that Russian ports also might try it. Ventspils has the reputation of being a seedy, polluted port where chemicals in the air have killed some greenery and children practice with gas masks in case an ammonia-loading center blows up. The town has made strides against pollution in the last two years, however, and is restoring the buildings and narrow streets of its medieval quarter for the th anniversary.