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Dallas strip clubs and other sexually-oriented businesses get a 2 a.m. curfew

King's Cabaret, a former night club in Dallas, closed after two shootings in 2018.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA
King's Cabaret, a former night club in Dallas, closed after two shootings in 2018.

Dallas strip clubs and other sexually oriented businesses will now close between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. After a five-hour debate, Dallas City Council members voted unanimously Wednesday to limit hours in hopes that will reduce crime nearby.

Sexually oriented businesses that violate the ordinance will have their operating license suspended for up to 30 days. Anyone who violates the rules could receive a fine up to $4,000 and up to one year of jail time. The new ordinance will also raise the minimum age for sexually oriented business employees from 18 to 21, which would align with a new state law.

The issue has attracted controversy for more than a month. And on Wednesday, a group of demonstrators rallied against the ordinance outside Dallas City Hall, chanting "all jobs matter."

And 50 people signed up to speak at Wednesday's meeting. The first to speak were two former Dallas City Council members, Philip Kingston and Jennifer Gates, who were on opposing sides of the the debate.

Kingston argued the sex business curfew would be bad for business and a "cultural harm to our city's LGBT community."

Gates says neighbors of sex-related businesses want relief from the violent crime. She pointed to recent data linking crime to these businesses and called on Council members to "stand up with your constituents and continue to make Dallas a safer place to work."

Many strip club owners and employees also spoke out against the ordinance, saying it would reduce their work hours. Some employees said they feared they would lose their jobs. Others said they need the work to take care of their loved ones and recover financially from the COVID pandemic.

One woman's voice trembled as she spoke through tears. She said working as a stripper is helping her fund the complex and expensive process of in vitro fertilization.

Before Wednesday, sexually oriented businesses could stay open 24 hours daily.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia urged city council members earlier this month to limit the hours of operation for strip clubs and other sex businesses.

At that time, DPD officials presented the City Council with data that showed high crime rates in Northwest Dallas, where 39% of licensed sexually oriented businesses are located.

Police also documented nearly 550 aggravated assaults around sex-businesses in Northwest Dallas. More than 20% of those occurred between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

"Police officers can't be the answer to everything. We quite frankly are asking for the council's help," Garcia said.

Several Texas cities already have restrictions on hours of operation. In Fort Worth, sex-businesses are closed 2 a.m. to 10 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 3 a.m. to 10 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays. The exception is Friday, when they can remain open until 4 a.m. but only if the businesses have a valid food permit.

El Paso requires sexually oriented businesses to be closed between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. And Plano’s closing hours are 2 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Chief Garcia had said the department is doing their best to reduce violent crime, but adding closing hours will help save lives.

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Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities and the city of Dallas.