Four of the eight French Quarter strip clubs targeted in raids over the past two weeks will be able to start serving alcohol again soon after reaching settlements with state officials, the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control said Wednesday.
Two other clubs have permanently shut down.
The settlements were announced hours after city and tourism officials were interrupted as they tried to hold a news conference to announce that Bourbon Street was “open for business.”
Dozens of dancers and service industry workers shouted over officials who had planned to reassure tourists that after a year of roadwork that tore up the city’s most famous entertainment street, Bourbon would be back to normal in time for the peak of Carnival season.
It's not clear whether the settlements will resolve the complaints from the protesters, who expressed a wide range of grievances about city efforts to curtail adult businesses.
Four of the clubs whose licenses were suspended as a result of ATC and New Orleans Police Department actions will be back in operation soon, according to a news release from the ATC.
Scores, Stilettos, Rick’s Sporting Saloon and Rick’s Cabaret each reached agreements with the ATC — ahead of scheduled Thursday hearings on the suspensions — that will allow them to begin serving liquor after suspensions ranging from 10 days to 21 days.
Each of those clubs will also pay fines of between $5,000 and $7,500 and will be put on probation for a year.
Temptations, which lost an unrelated eviction fight with its landlord this week, will have its alcohol permit revoked and will pay a $2,500 fine.
The status of three other clubs whose licenses were suspended — Larry Flynt's Hustlers Barely Legal, Hunk Oasis and Dixie Divas — is unclear, though Hustlers Barely Legal is seeking an injunction against the ATC, arguing the suspension violates the club’s due process rights.
Lipstixx, which closed before the raids, has surrendered its alcohol permit and will reapply to the ATC to reopen as a dance club, according to the ATC.
The raids on the strip clubs were touted as an effort to curb human trafficking, but they have not yielded any arrests for that crime, and officials have not provided any public evidence of that activity.
The Police Department and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control said Monday that the raids uncovered multiple instances of prostitution, drug use and “lewd acts” at the clubs.
However, the protesters said the focus on the clubs was absurd, given the extent of drug use, prostitution and "flashing" that they said typically get a blind eye on Bourbon Street itself.
Chanting “save our jobs” and holding signs with slogans like “Bourbon Street is not Sesame Street” and “Entertainers’ rights are human rights,” the protesters argued the shutdown had done little but hurt their ability to make a living.
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Raids on eight French Quarter strip clubs that were touted as an effort to curb human trafficking have not yielded any arrests, and officials …
Dancers and other employees at the clubs have questioned the raids' timing and the tactics used. Their frustration erupted in Wednesday's protest, which saw strippers and their supporters completely take over the city's infrastructure press conference.
With the clubs shut down, protesters said, they were scrambling to make ends meet, and the glut of dancers looking for work was hurting the ability of even those who worked at the clubs that had not been shut down to work enough hours to make a living.
Many said they worried that the recent actions were a prelude to an attempt to turn Bourbon Street into a Disneyland version of itself or to emulate New York City’s drive to push adult businesses out of Times Square.
“They’re trying to turn it into something it’s never been,” said a dancer who identified herself as Nyx.
Several women said that contrary to arguments that the license suspensions would protect the dancers, they now were without jobs that had provided them safe working environments and were fearful their work would be criminalized. At the same time, some argued, police ignore prostitution occurring outside the clubs.
“Do you all feel protected? Do you all feel safe?” Lyn Archer, a founding member of the stripper advocacy group BARE, or Bourbon Alliance for Responsible Entertainers, asked the crowd, which shouted back “No.”
Four more Bourbon Street strip clubs had their alcohol licenses pulled following raids Thursday night and early Friday morning by officials wi…
A hearing is expected in federal court next week on a lawsuit brought by a group of dancers seeking to invalidate a state law requiring strippers to be at least 21 years old.
Also, the City Planning Commission is scheduled next week to take up a request from the City Council to look into capping the number of strip clubs in the French Quarter and gradually reducing their numbers by attrition.
As for the Bourbon Street work itself, construction in the 100 through 400 blocks is now complete except for some minor items, officials said. That’s likely a relief for businesses that have struggled since construction began in April, forcing patrons to try to squeeze through sidewalks blocked by fences that blocked off the crater in the middle of the roadway.
Initially, it was estimated that the first eight blocks of Bourbon could be completely reconstructed for $6 million, but problems found during construction soon caused that estimate to skyrocket. The first four blocks alone cost $10 million to complete, and officials are now estimating the next four blocks will cost $6.8 million.