The state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control continued a crackdown Thursday on French Quarter clubs, suspending the alcohol licenses of four Bourbon Street bars, including two strip clubs, that it accused of allowing the sale of illegal drugs.
The strip clubs, which closed their doors following the suspensions, were also accused of allowing prostitution on their premises.
“We are in the second month of this operation, and it will continue to run through the holidays,” ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert said. “ATC will continue to do its part to weed out criminal activity at locations that are given the privilege to sell alcohol and tobacco.”
The investigation, dubbed Operation Trick or Treat, this time targeted several popular establishments on Bourbon Street. Accused of facilitating illegal drug activity were Babes Cabaret, Big Daddy’s, Bourbon Cowboy and the Swamp. Babes Cabaret and Big Daddy’s were also accused of multiple counts of “lewd/improper acts” and prostitution.
Undercover agents said they bought drugs at the clubs and witnessed dancers agreeing to perform sex acts for certain prices. The violations are considered to be administrative, not criminal, Hebert noted, adding that the State Police are continuing a parallel criminal investigation.
“When you have an alcohol permit, you’re responsible for what’s happening on your premises,” Hebert said. “Our goal and objective is to help clean up the crime in the French Quarter, and despite what some people think, crime starts with drugs and prostitution.”
The ATC ordered all four of the businesses “to immediately stop selling alcohol and tobacco products,” Hebert said. He said administrative hearings would be held in coming weeks to address the violations.
“It’s very encouraging to see that there is some enforcement,” said Carol Gniady, executive director of French Quarter Citizens, a residential organization. The ATC, she said, “is doing what it can to stop illegal activity.”
The latest suspensions followed similar action taken last week against five other strip clubs accused of some of the same violations. The clubs have fought back in the courts but were dealt a blow Wednesday when a Civil District Court judge ruled that the ATC acted within its authority when it suspended the liquor licenses of Centerfolds, Lipstixx and Scores.
Hebert said it was troubling that last week’s crackdown had not deterred other clubs from allowing similar activity.
“What I don’t understand is, with a huge announcement like we made, you’d think the violations would be stopping, but we had more violations over the weekend,” he said. “That was kind of disturbing.”
Hebert referred to the French Quarter as the “jewel of the state” and said he had pulled in agents from other cities to help protect one of the state’s most important investments. “We’re trying to get things under control in the French Quarter,” he said.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.