13 March, 2019
Fort Worth strip club drugged, beat and stole thousands from customers, lawsuit says
Article witten by SCN. Additional content from star-telegram.
Jeff Gibson says what started as a night of celebration at Rick's Cabaret in Fort Worth ended with him drugged and his credit card charged $4,000 for drinks he did not order and 60 lap dances he does not remember.
Gibson is not the only person to say he was drugged, assaulted or had money stolen at the strip club at 7101 Calmont Ave. Gibson is a witness in a lawsuit filed by three men, each with his own account of how entertainers, bouncers and managers took advantage of them.
Rick's Cabaret has two locations in Fort Worth and is part of RCI Hospitality Holdings, the nation's largest gentleman's club chain. The suit, filed Feb. 27 in Tarrant County, names Rick's Cabaret, its manager Kim Williams, and its Houston-based corporate office as plaintiffs. RCI Holdings declined to comment on the lawsuit or the club's violations.
The four men named in the lawsuit visited Rick's on separate occasions. But they had similar stories -- they went to the club, were assaulted or beaten and woke up to find egregious charges on their credit cards.
Bryan Rice, who lives in Parker County, said in the lawsuit that he was attacked when he tried to leave Rick's Cabaret in February 2018 after a Mardi Gras party.
Rice said managers invited him and a friend into the VIP section. Rice said he was already drunk and told staff he was "not in shape" to be ordering more alcohol, according to the suit. But entertainers kept ordering drinks for Rice and themselves and charging them to his credit card.
When he decided to leave, Rice said he was followed into the parking lot by a bartender and a bouncer who insisted he sign a credit card bill totaling an additional $300. Rice said he refused and got in his car, where he called his wife for a ride because he could not drive. While he was in the car, the bouncer reached through the car window, grabbed his arm and hit him, according to the suit.
Scott Walton, who is from Fort Worth, described in the lawsuit how he went to Rick's in January 2018 and drank two cocktails offered to him by waitresses. After the second drink, he became disoriented and his vision blurred. He said entertainers stole money and jewelry from him and ran up charges on his credit card. The bouncers then assaulted him and tossed him into the parking lot, according to the lawsuit.
Brandon Waggoner, also from Fort Worth, said he became confused and dazed after drinking two alcoholic drinks at Rick's in April 2018, according to the suit. He and a friend were in the VIP section when he became unable to lift his arms or defend himself as entertainers took his money and Rolex watch, he said in the suit.
Waggoner also said a Rick's employee told him that she had seen her coworkers steal from customers for the past three years.
Gibson said he was attacked in May 2014 when he blacked out after drinking one beer and a shot. In less than three hours, Gibson's credit card was charged $3,974 --$600 for a random tip charge and $1,470 for 60 lap dances that Gibson has no memory of.
Stephen Mitchell, a Fort Worth attorney representing the men, said he wants to see more legal enforcement over Rick's.
"I think they need to be held responsible for what they do," he said. "The state of Texas gives this place a liquor license, and the city of Fort Worth allows it to operate."
Mitchell believes Rick's Cabaret over-serves its customers to make more money.
Rick's Cabaret in Houston faced similar accusations in 2012 after a customer was served 15 drinks. He left the bar, drove 130 mph on the wrong side of the freeway and crashed into another car, killing a high school senior.
Based on reports, Rick's Cabaret in Houston was enforcing an incentive program that encouraged employees to over-serve customers. The club required employees to pay a nightly fee to work at the club. To help pay the fee, the club created a system in which employees could earn credits based on the number of drinks they sold.
Mitchell speculates that Rick's Calmont location in Fort Worth might be doing the same thing.
Rick's in Houston is now closed, but RCI Holdings operates two other strip clubs in the city, both called XCT Cabaret. In 2015, RCI Holdings in Manhattan settled a $15 million class action lawsuit with strippers who said their wages were wrongfully retained because the company classified them as independent contractors.
Additionally, the Star-Telegram has found that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has cited Rick's with 10 violations since 2007, the second most among Fort Worth strip clubs. In that time, 27 formal complaints have been made to the TABC about Rick's Cabaret. The TABC then investigates those complaints and determines if there is enough evidence to cite a violation.
Among the TABC violations at Rick's: gambling, drug possession, selling alcohol to a minor, lewd acts or exposure and the person licensed to sell alcohol being drunk on premises. One complaint -- selling alcohol after hours -- is pending.
Among Fort Worth strip clubs, only Baby Dolls has been cited more for violating the state's alcoholic beverage code during that time, according to records reviewed by the Star-Telegram.
Brian Byrd is the councilman for the district in which Rick's Cabaret operates. He said he would like to see the place shut down.
"These kinds of institutions attract crime and make money off of behavior that doesn't help us," he said. "It doesn't bring good things out of us in this community."
Byrd said he had not heard about criminal allegations against Rick's, but the area is a crime hot spot. He said he would not be surprised "if it was related to Rick's being there."
Police records show that 22 police reports have been filed based on incidents at Rick's since 2014. Among those calls, seven were for drugs, six were for assaults and four were for thefts.
In 2018, Rick's Cabaret in Fort Worth came under scrutiny when an underage employee, Payton Goodwin, was served numerous drinks before getting behind the wheel of her car with 32-year-old Robert Yabrough. While driving, she pulled the emergency brake, which launched the car over a 6-foot iron fence. Yabrough died after the crash and Goodwin was arrested. A lawsuit filed by Yabrough's family against Rick's and RCI Holdings is ongoing.
Another lawsuit filed in 2015 accused Rick's of over-serving alcohol to a man who ended up crashing his car into a man, killing him as he walked across the street in Fort Worth. The suit, filed by the man's wife, was settled out of court.
A former employee at Cabaret North, a Rick's Cabaret subsidiary, identified as Jane Doe filed a lawsuit against the club in 2014 after she said a manager raped her. Doe said the manager, Keith R McGriff, had been arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a drunk woman. But he was not fired, and management did not tell employees about McGriff's charges, according to Doe's lawsuit. Doe says McGriff went on to rape her.
McGriff was found guilty of rape in 2014 and sentenced to 25 years, according to court records. Doe's lawsuit settled out of court.
Besides the two locations in Fort Worth, there are seven other Rick's Cabarets in Austin, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York City, Odessa, Pittsburgh and San Antonio.