After the one-year moratorium on new strip clubs expires, what’s next for the French Quarter and the image of New Orleans? The French Quarter already has the nation’s highest concentration of strip clubs on a per capita basis and per square mile. According to an urban research study, Portland, Oregon, has the highest number of strip clubs per capita in the country with nearly nine strip clubs per 100,000 people. With approximately 4,000 residents, roughly 20 strip clubs and an area of only 0.66 square miles, the French Quarter has 56 times more strip clubs per capita than Portland (which is 220 times larger in area). The concentration of strip clubs in the Vieux Carre on a per capita basis sadly rises whenever a resident of the French Quarter permanently leaves because he or she cannot raise a family and enjoy a normal life in an increasingly unbalanced neighborhood.
Should new strip clubs or adult entertainment venues be allowed to proliferate in the Vieux Carre after the moratorium expires? In contrast, new hotels, T-shirt shops and food carts (other than Lucky Dog) are prohibited from ever opening in the French Quarter. Why has city hall ignored or even tolerated the harmful impacts of strip clubs in New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood for decades?
The negative effects of French Quarter strip clubs on quality of life are clear. In 2012, City Councilwoman Kristin Palmer specifically pointed to the number of strip clubs in the French Quarter as a justification for tightening the curfew for minors in our city’s oldest neighborhood. On the 300 and 400 blocks of Bourbon Street, there are at least seven strip clubs facing or near the Royal Sonesta Hotel, and reportedly at least one convention rejected New Orleans as a destination because strippers were visible from the sidewalk.
The door-to-door and block-by-block concentration of strip clubs in the French Quarter has significant and negative spillover effects. It’s time for some common-sense restrictions on how close new strip clubs could open near existing ones in the Vieux Carre.
The need for a buffer from strip clubs is not a foreign concept under current New Orleans zoning rules. Outside of the French Quarter, the New Orleans Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance prohibits strip clubs, adult entertainment venues and nude cabarets from opening within 1,000 feet of residences, churches, schools and parks. The exposé of prostitution, drug-related crimes and lewd/improper acts at French Quarter strip clubs led to a temporary moratorium, but City Hall should strive for a more permanent and substantial reform. To stop the downward spiral of the French Quarter and to bolster the neighborhood’s livability, the city should limit how close new strip clubs can open near existing ones.