If a dancer and a customer wanted to seal a deal for prostitution or illegal drugs at a Bourbon Street strip club, some might wonder if it’s a harmless crime. Forget that prostitution, drug dealing, and lewd/improper acts are violations of the legal code for alcohol-beverage outlets. Forget that 10 out of 13 existing strip clubs as of January on Bourbon Street have been cited for prostitution, drug dealing and lewd/improper conduct since October 2015. Forget that bars, nightclubs, and restaurants — like strip clubs and other ABO’s — would not be allowed to be one-stop shops for prostitution and illegal drugs.
When strip clubs on Bourbon Street can sell alcohol with illegal conduct like prostitution and drug-dealing, they make it harder for legitimate businesses like bars and restaurants to survive. If a strip club can generate profits that are inflated due to illegal activity, lax oversight and inconsistent law enforcement, a landlord is going to rent to strip clubs instead of a bar, restaurant, or music hall. Why, until recently, was the 300 block of Bourbon Street saturated with three strip clubs — Temptations, Stiletto’s and Rick’s Cabaret —right next to each other for guests at the Royal Sonesta Hotel to see and complain about?
On Bourbon Street and in the French Quarter, some people cannot or do not want to work in strip clubs. Don’t chefs, cooks, dishwashers, busboys, musicians, culture bearers, waiters, waitresses, sommeliers and people who cannot work as dancers have the right to work in law-abiding establishments like bars, nightclubs, music halls, and restaurants on Bourbon Street? As it stands now, Bourbon Street and the French Quarter have more stringent restrictions for hotels, tour guides and Lucky Dog food carts than for strip clubs.
With its repeated law enforcement raids, pop-up strip clubs, and rotating license suspensions, Bourbon Street is not sustainable, and the dysfunctional business layout of the street threatens New Orleans' image and main industry: tourism. Let's try a rational, fair, and objective regulation for Bourbon Street: a spacing requirement (such as 500 feet) for how close future strip clubs can open near existing ones. If 500 feet is too wide, the rule can be lowered to somewhere between 250 to 150 feet, which would still allow 9 to 15 strip clubs to exist somewhere on Bourbon Street (according to the city planning commission’s 2016 study). Importantly, existing strip clubs would not be affected by a spacing rule, and Louisiana law could allow a shuttered strip club to reopen in its same exact location.
What do Bourbon Street, the French Quarter or New Orleans have to lose with making a minor, but long overdue, change?