The head of Louisiana’s alcohol enforcement agency on Thursday revoked the permit for Lipstick Gentlemen’s Club, saying the “evidence was overwhelming” that the strip club for years operated in filthy and unsavory environs.
Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert also issued Lipstick owner Mohammed Ali Makki fines totalling $8,000 for alleged violations, including prostitution and drug sales that became public after a May raid by law enforcement. Hebert gave Makki 45 days to pay the fine.
“Everything is unfair,” Makki said after the ruling, which was issued at an administrative hearing held in Lafayette City-Parish Government Council chambers. “The whole investigation was unfair.”
Hebert said Makki had 10 days to appeal the ruling in 15th District Court in Lafayette.
“I think the evidence was overwhelming,” Hebert told reporters after the hearing.
Agents with the Lafayette Metro Narcotic Task Force raided the club on May 14 after a monthslong undercover investigation. Makki and 17 women who worked at the club were booked on felonies ranging from soliciting prostitution to illegal drug sales to obscenity. Makki also was booked on one count of operating a disorderly place.
ATC temporarily suspended Lipstick’s liquor license after the raid.
On Thursday, Hebert revoked the license, which is permanent and essentially shuts down the business that Makki has operated since 1998.
He also barred issuance of a permit to anyone else who seeks to sell liquor inside the building at 6157 Johnston St. Hebert made the site ban permanent after Makki told him the landlord never spent money to fix holes in the roof and address other needs.
The building is owned by Dien Duc Huynh, who operates Dien’s Auto Salvage in a yard in the rear of the building. Makki said Dien parks wrecked, immobile vehicles in the Lipstick lot.
ATC Director Tiffany Daw, whose agents cited Lipstick on a few occasions for unsanitary conditions, said the insides were in need of a good scrubbing.
“I have never seen a place that filthy and disgusting in my life,” Daw said, looking at photos. “You can just see the filth, dirt, mold.”
The doors to Lipstick have been shut since the raid in May, and Makki and the women still face felony charges.
Hebert said the prostitution, drug and obscenity accusations are his agency’s concern because alcohol is one of the lures that brings customers to the club.
Metro Narcotics agents Lucas Hvasta and Jason Herpin testified Thursday that some of the dancers exposed their private parts to undercover agents, sold drugs to them and a few times also agreed to have sex for money.
Hvasta said the price for sex was $150, with the girl getting $100 and $50 going to the house.
Herpin said he agreed to pay $400 to a dancer for sex in a hotel room later that night.
Both men said it was standard law enforcement procedure to make the arrangement for sex then to back out of the deal.
Makki and his attorney Warren Ashy tried to persuade Hebert that Lipstick should be saved.
Makki said that since the raid he’s cleaned the place and that he’s always forbidden drug usage and sales and has fired dancers for suspected prostitution.
Makki testified that he never saw drug transactions or dancers soliciting sex for money. And he told Hebert that he would get rid of the VIP room, a secluded room where much of the activity allegedly took place.
“I would comply with the law to the fullest,” Makki said.
Hebert was not persuaded by Makki’s pleas.
He noted that the club had been in an unsanitary state for years and that it took a police raid and the threat of losing his business before Makki cleaned it up.
The commissioner also doubted Makki, who was at the business most nights, didn’t notice illegal activities that allegedly were occurring in plain site.
Makki said after the hearing that he would seek a federal ruling to reverse the criminal investigation and ATC’s liquor license decision.