16 June, 2017
New Orleans extends Bourbon Street strip club moratorium
Article witten by SCN. Additional content from nola.com - kevin litten.
The New Orleans City Council on Thursday (June 15) voted to extend a temporary plan that would require any new strip clubs along Bourbon Street to obtain its permission before opening. The original plan was adopted for a year and expired May 28.
The six-month extension allows the council to avoid taking any action on a City Planning Commission recommendation to reduce the number of strip clubs in the French Quarter until after the fall elections. Council members received extensive public comment on the Planning Commission plan last year but never acted on its recommendations.
The Planning Commission recommendations were based on an extensive study of the "secondary effects" of strip clubs in the French Quarter, and included findings that the clubs diminished the experience of the historic neighborhood and increased crime. Strip clubs fought the recommendations, saying there was no direct correlation between crime and their businesses or any need to reduce the number of clubs from the 19 adult live performance venues now in the French Quarter.
The City Council voted 6-0 to extend the moratorium another six months. There was no discussion on the vote.
Two key events prompted council members to take action to regulate strip clubs: The October 2015 "Trick or Treat" raids carried out by the state Office of Alcohol Tobacco Control that resulted in nine clubs being cited for prostitution, lewd acts and drug activity. And there was the June 2015 killing of a 19-year-old dancer, Jasilas Wright, whom police said died after her pimp tried to kidnap her from a Bourbon Street club.
Her pimp, Adam Littleton, who has also been described as her boyfriend, goes to trial later this year in Jefferson Parish. Wright's death prompted the City Council to pass an ordinance all dancers to be age 21 and older, and the state Legislature followed suit with a statewide law. That law is being challenged in federal court, and the judge in the case has blocked the state from enforcing it.
Strip club owners have argued that if there was better enforcement of existing laws, there wouldn't be so much concern about the secondary effects of working in strip clubs on dancers. Attorneys for the state argued during the federal case that dancers age 18 to 20 are exposed to pimps, drugs and prostitution.
The Planning Commission report raised a raft of issues about enforcement, writing that existing regulations "are not properly enforced," and that "the high concentration of bars and other entertainment uses along Bourbon Street is a major factor of crime."
"There is indeed a higher concentration of crimes in and around the Vieux Carre," though "it would be hard to associate criminality with adult live performance venues only."
Even so, the report said, if the City Council wants to act on the fact that crime has been correlated to (adult entertainment) use in other cities," the City Council would have three options for regulations.
Those options included enforcing current regulations and making the temporary zone requiring conditional use approval permanent. It would include enforcing various requirements, such as noise abatement plans, separate bathrooms for dancers and internal security cameras covering all public spaces.
The third regulation option was to reduce the number of venues through imposition of a cap, with a recommended cap of seven. Because that decision wouldn't allow the council to begin closing down venues, it would have to rely on the attrition of businesses that could be forced to close once they were subject to police or ATC enforcement. Clubs found in violation of alcohol laws three times could be subject to a license revocation for a year.