Four of the five French Quarter strip clubs that were shut down this week after agents cited them for prostitution and drug dealing have been allowed to reopen after a New Orleans judge temporarily blocked an order by the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control suspending their liquor licenses.
The owner of the three clubs on Bourbon Street — Centerfolds, Lipstixx and Scores — argued that the ATC overreached when it summarily shuttered the clubs on Tuesday.
Civil District Court Judge Regina Woods intervened on Wednesday with a temporary injunction, ordering that the three clubs be allowed to reopen ahead of a court hearing next week. Woods issued a separate order to reopen a fourth club, Chez Joey on Iberville Street, on Thursday.
ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert said the fifth club, Dixie Divas, also on Iberville, had not been ordered reopened as of Thursday afternoon.
All of the clubs had their liquor licenses suspended after authorities said they uncovered dozens of instances of drug activity, prostitution and “lewd and immoral acts” at the businesses in the past month alone. The state alleges the offenses occurred between Sept. 25 and Oct. 26 and included naked dancers and “inappropriate touching.”
The State Police are conducting a separate criminal investigation of the allegations.
Hebert was outraged at the court decision and pointed a finger at the judge.
“New Orleans is going to have to make a decision: Does it want law and order, or does it want to be like the wild, wild West?” Hebert asked. “This certainly sends a terrible message out there, that we went in there and closed some of the worst of the worst places, and in less than 24 hours, they allowed them to open again.”
The three clubs on Bourbon Street argued in their filing that the state should have alerted them when it first observed violations so they could be corrected. All three clubs have the same owner and are overseen by the same general manager, Ray Palazzolo.
The state’s allegation that the clubs’ employees allowed crimes on their premises was far too vague, the clubs said.
Hebert countered that it was “standard procedure” to build a case against habitual offenders by observing multiple violations.
Even if their employees encouraged misdeeds, the clubs argued in their filing, “it is well settled Louisiana law that an employer is not liable for the intentional criminal acts of its employees.”
Woods’ brief order did not explain her reasoning.