16 Houston strip clubs will soon go back to topless ways
by Drew Karedes / KHOU 11 News
Posted on November 27, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Updated Thursday, Nov 28 at 4:08 PM
HOUSTON – The City of Houston has struck a deal with 16 strip clubs within city limits in an agreement that’s going to cost one million dollars a year.
Dancers at those clubs will now be allowed to perform topless in exchange for that annual payment. The city has required Houston strippers to wear pasties and cover up since 1997.
The agreement ends years of litigation.
“We’re a topless club, and we’re going to offer topless entertainment,” said attorney Casey Wallace. “I know it will do good. These 16 clubs are going to give a million dollars every year. This isn’t a one-time punch.”
The money will be used to create and staff a human trafficking unit within the Houston Police Department.
Mayor Annise Parker and other city leaders spoke publicly at a Wednesday news conference. Parker said she believed the settlement allows the city to address a big problem.
“Establishing a working relationship with these 16 clubs will assist law enforcement in reducing criminal activity, help us combat human trafficking, and hopefully, allow us to focus police resources on the rogue clubs,” said Mayor Annise Parker.
The clubs have also agreed to eliminate their private rooms, hire only those who want to work voluntarily and not hire dancers who have convicted of prostitution or drug charges in the past five years.
The eased restrictions only apply to the 16 clubs that existed before 1997. Any sexually oriented business which opened after that date will still have to adhere to tighter rules.
http://www.khou.com/news/local/16-Houst ... 08351.html
City of Houston Begins a Dance with the Devil to Fight Human Trafficking
By Bob Price
Houston, Texas has long been regarded as the nation's hub of human trafficking. Police organizations across the county have long been engaged in a variety of efforts to fight human trafficking in Harris County. Now, it seems, Mayor Annise Parker may be making a deal where she must dance with the devil in creating a new tool to fight human trafficking - strip clubs! Yes, strip clubs in Houston will now be engaged in fighting human trafficking.
According to an article this week in the Houston Chronicle, the city of Houston has reached an agreement with 16 topless strip clubs that will halt the city's enforcement of a "three foot rule" and allow dancers to be fully topless in exchange for a $1 million donation to help combat human trafficking. Prior to Mayor Parker's announcement on the day before Thanksgiving, dancers had to wear latex pasties and maintain a three foot distance from their customers.
The agreement, which will now move to city council for approval, puts an end to a series of lawsuits that have been in place since the city passed its sexually oriented business ordinance in 1997.
Interestingly some of these sixteen clubs have allegedly been deeply involved in human trafficking. It will be interesting to see if this can truly have any impact on human trafficking in Houston.
The Texas Attorney General's Office has also been heavily engaged in fighting human trafficking for many years and has been widely covered by TexasGOPVote.com. In September, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced a Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. At that time he said, "As our experience has demonstrated, human trafficking can only be stopped through the coordinated efforts of many organizations at all levels – local, state and federal as well as public and private. One of the most effective ways we have found to make a difference is through training."
Training in human trafficking is a part of the agreement with Houston's 16 topless clubs effected by this agreement. The agreement only applies to clubs that were in operation prior to the 1997 city ordinance.
As the Attorney General's office will continue to play a key role in fighting human trafficking, not just in the sex industry but in construction and hospitality as well. I asked Railroad Commission Chairman and Attorney General Candidate Barry Smitherman about this huge issue.
"Well, it’s a terrible crime," Smitherman replied. "Any time anyone is forced to do something against their will, that is not only morally wrong, but it is against our laws. And so we need to focus in on that as well. It can’t be tolerated. Trafficking of humans, whether it’s sex trade or otherwise, is a despicable crime. It often involves underage people, or people that are the most vulnerable in our society, so we can’t let that go."
Smitherman committed to drilling down into this issue in an interview that will be conducted in December.
Somehow, Mayor Parker seems to think that by taking a $1 million per year "donation" (tribute?) from strip clubs, that in some cases have allegedly been directly involved in human trafficking, will help solve this problem. Yes, human trafficking awareness training is one of the requirements in this agreement, but it seems like we are asking the fox to guard the henhouse once again.
The funds from the strip club "donation" will be used to fund a newly created human trafficking investigative unit within the Houston Police Department. It will be interesting to watch where this money gets spent and if it will truly impact human trafficking in Houston.
http://www.texasgopvote.com/regions/tex ... ing-006123
City, strip clubs make deal to combat crime
Lap dances legal in return for funds to fight trafficking
By Anita Hassan
November 28, 2013
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Lap dances are once again legal at certain Houston topless clubs that have agreed to pay the city a combined $1 million every year to help combat human trafficking.
Under a settlement announced Wednesday by Mayor Annise Parker, the city will halt enforcement of a 3-foot rule required between performers and patrons and allow dancers to be fully topless at the 16 clubs involved in the negotiated agreement. In exchange, the clubs will contribute an annual donation to a fund that would create and maintain a Houston Police Department unit dedicated solely to investigating human trafficking.
City officials and attorneys for the clubs said the agreement brings the two entities together to reduce criminal activity and focus on the activities of what the mayor called "rogue clubs."
"Establishing a working relationship with these 16 clubs will assist law enforcement in reducing criminal activity, help us combat human trafficking and, hopefully, allow us to focus police resources on the rogue clubs that have opened up more recently," Parker said. "This settlement allows us to address the problem head-on in a meaningful way with funding and staff."
The agreement is intended to bring an end to a series of lawsuits filed by the clubs and the city since council passed Houston's sexually oriented business ordinance in 1997. The clubs had challenged numerous provisions in the ordinance, from proximity to schools and churches to dancer licenses to whether the clubs should be considered sexually oriented businesses.
"(The agreement) is going to save considerable amount of legal resources and police resources," City Attorney David Feldman said, noting that the city has spent millions of dollars in the past 16 years trying to enforce the regulations. "This will also give us a leg up on addressing (human) trafficking."
John Weston, a Los Angles-based attorney representing clubs in the lawsuits including The Men's Club and The Ritz, called the settlement historic.
"Today, Houston commences on an unprecedented, different approach with these 16 clubs," said Weston, who has defended adult entertainment businesses across the country, fighting cases in the Supreme Court. "Today they join to declare war against trafficking and those who engage in it."
Under the settlement, the city agrees to stop enforcing the 3-foot rule and specifically allows lap dances. Each of the 16 clubs involved in the settlement is involved in one or more of three current lawsuits with the city regarding restrictions dealing with sexually oriented businesses.
In addition to the annual contribution, the businesses agreed to train employees on human trafficking awareness, report all complaints of prostitution, indecent exposure and drug use to police, and eliminate so-called private VIP rooms and areas within the clubs, which Feldman said often are used for illegal activity.
Clubs may also not knowingly employ, hire or contract dancers who are escorted by another person that speaks for them or takes money on their behalf or anyone that appears to have control over them, Feldman said. Entertainers or club managers also must not have any criminal charges in the past five years. Clubs are required to verify the names, ages and immigration status of all employees and report back to the city.
"The cops need to know who is working in these clubs," Feldman said.
Because they still do not concede to being sexually oriented businesses, the clubs do not have to adhere to the ordinance's regulation that they must operate at least 1,500 feet from schools, day cares, parks and churches.
"They are not saying it," Feldman said. "But they are agreeing to do all these things that actually are a greater obligation than they would have under the ordinance if they were a (sexually oriented business)."
Any club that breaks the terms of the agreement will be dropped from the settlement, and the other establishments will have to pick up the contribution to the abatement fund.
Feldman, who began crafting the settlement in the spring, said the concept originated from a lawsuit settlement between the city and prominent strip club Treasures. In 2012, the city and Harris County Attorney's office sued Treasures' owner, accusing the establishment of harboring prostitution, drugs, illegal weapons and sexual assaults.
A settlement was reached last December in which the club's owner agreed to put $100,000 in a nuisance abatement fund to combat human trafficking as well as similar provisions with the current agreement.
"That in turn gave me the idea if we can create such a fund for the purpose of addressing enforcement activities within these clubs, why couldn't we do something similar to address the broader issue of human trafficking?" said Feldman.
Feldman said the city would be open to speaking with any other clubs that would like to come under a similar agreement.
If the agreement works well for both entities, Feldman said the next step would be grafting similar terms as a permanent provision in the city's sexually oriented business ordinance.
"This was the logical fist step in that direction," he said. "But we have to see if it works."
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/ho ... 018222.php