6 February, 2018
Rick's Cabaret becomes 5th strip club targeted by state authorities
Article witten by SCN. Additional content from nola.com.
State authorities have ordered the emergency suspension of the liquor permit at Rick's Cabaret, a French Quarter strip club, in the wake of four other suspensions at strip clubs over the weekend.
The Rick's Cabaret closure brings the total number of strip clubs that have lost their liquor licenses to five. Over the weekend, Rick's Sporting Saloon, Dixie Divas, Temptations and Scores all had their liquor licenses pulled under an emergency suspension order.
Rick's Cabaret and Rick's Sporting Saloon are both owned by Robert Watters, a founder of the corporate chain of Rick's strip clubs who is no longer involved in the corporate business. The two Rick's clubs, which do not have a history of violations, are both privately owned that license the corporate Rick's name.
Watters did not return a message left on his voicemail on Thursday afternoon. The club was not open at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, and a sign on the door said the club would be closed "today."
A new organization that represents French Quarter dancers, the Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers, issued a statement Thursday evening about the enforcement. Lyn Archer, who represents the group, said that women had been "emotionally degraded" during raids over the weekend and are now "facing the loss of their jobs."
Archer said she views the police actions during the Friday raids as unlawful, adding that "intrusions and abrupt closures like these create the problems that city officials claim they solve.
"When work becomes a place of intimidation, and jobs become precarious, workers find themselves more vulnerable, not less," Archer said.
Asked about concern over police conduct during raids over the weekend, New Orleans Police Department Spokesman Beau Tidwell said that the department was unaware of the allegations, adding, "No complaints have been filed."
It is not clear why the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control decided to pull the Rick's Cabaret license, or any of the licenses at the other clubs. In 2015, the agency suspended liquor permits of some French Quarter strip clubs on charges that they were allowing prostitution, lewd acts and narcotics activity.
But Ernest Legier, the chief of staff to ATC Commissioner Juana Marine-Lombard, said in an interview earlier this week that it's not likely that the results of investigations will be made public until Feb. 6. That's when the four clubs that were closed on Friday are due for a hearing on the emergency suspensions.
An investigation into human trafficking on Bourbon Street published by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune in October found that strip clubs have struggled to keep out pimps and prostitutes that profit from tourists on Bourbon Street. In one case, the club Temptations disclosed that the club had fired an employee who was involved in pimping on Bourbon Street.
Legier did say that in recent months, ATC has set up a human trafficking task force under orders from Gov. John Bel Edwards. A former New Orleans Police Department officer was hired to lead the task force in recent weeks, he said.
But law enforcement has not made arrests in connection with human trafficking and strip clubs. Legier said state officials are concerned that if prostitution is occurring inside businesses that serve alcohol, there may be connections to trafficking, which is defined as a person performing commercial sex acts under force, fraud or coercion.
Three dancers who worked at Rick's Sporting Saloon and were present during the raid on Friday said they were not aware of any prostitution or narcotics activity in the club. Archer, of the dancers' advocacy group, also said that "in these or the previous raids, not one instance of human trafficking has been found."
Fred Herman, a lawyer for Temptations and Scores, said in an interview on Monday that he had only sparse information about why the clubs he represents were closed.