Dallas city prosecutors are defending a new ordinance requiring adult entertainment clubs to close between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., citing numerous serious assaults at businesses as well as fatal shootings. They argue that club clientele creates a volatile environment in the wee hours of the morning.
But strip club lawyers are asking U.S. Chief Justice Barbara Lynn for an injunction to stop the city’s new law from taking effect, saying their customers are being unfairly singled out based on police data erroneous.
Whether or not sex-oriented businesses are good corporate citizens or persistent crime magnets deserving of limited hours of operation was the subject of Monday’s day-long hearing in federal court.
Lynn said another day of testimony and arguments would be required, possibly next week, and did not say when she would issue a ruling.
Monday’s proceedings were steeped in understatement to soften the details of an industry rooted in sexual gratification.
The strippers were “erotic artists” and “contract artists”. One owner described the daily undressing ritual on his stages:
“They convey their erotic message through their performance.”
The judge heard of ‘pleasure devices’ on sale in adult bookstores with names such as New Fine Arts and ‘dance dollars’ or fake novelty ‘money’ that customers can buy to tip to waitresses. The term “SOBs” has been used a lot, but not to describe a person. He represents businesses of a sexual nature; for example, a North Texas club called Chicas Locas – or crazy girls.
Club executives took the witness stand to describe the fully nude, topless dancers (single mothers and college students, mostly) as well as their typical bosses.
“Two of them are sitting right behind you,” said Lloyd Ace, vice president of the Men’s Club of Dallas, referring to the two gray-haired plaintiffs’ attorneys seated at a table behind the lectern.
Although the hearing was sprinkled with moments of lightness and humor, the stakes are high.
For club owners, any limit on their prime viewing hours from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. would mean major layoffs and millions in lost profits, they said. And the city insists its understaffed and overworked police department cannot continue to spend precious resources cleaning up the violent and bloody messes left by an industry that, in some cases, has failed. been responsive to police safety recommendations.
Daniel Linz, an expert witness for the club owners, said the police crime data presented to the council to justify the order was “poor” and statistically flawed.
Linz, a professor in the department of communications at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the city does not control various factors that can influence crime, such as population, demographics and proximity to other businesses that are open all night. such as hotels, nightclubs, fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and poker rooms.
As such, it was not possible to conclude that all or even most of the crime in the city’s northwest industrial area, where strip clubs are primarily clustered, was caused by adult businesses, Linz said. He said the city study was “not scientifically valid”.
The city’s own data showed a decrease in crime between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., he added.
But a city attorney, Ana Marie Jordan, said in cross-examination that the numbers are influenced by fewer officers being on duty during the cemetery’s undesirable shift. As a result, fewer crimes will be uncovered during this time, she said.
Jordan also said the police department did not intend its slideshow presentations to city council to be a “scientific study.”
J. Michael Murray, a club industry lawyer, said another problem with the city’s crime data is that seven of the 35 venues the city studied were not functioning at the time.
Jordan asked Linz about his prodigious work for the American adult entertainment industry, for which he charges $450 an hour. Linz said he has been studying these questions for about 20 years. This has included co-authoring scientific papers for publications such as the Journal of Sex Researchin which he concluded that sex-related businesses like strip clubs do not create crime hotspots.
Linz said he had testified in court as an expert about a dozen times and had been hired by adult businesses about 50 times, to study crime statistics and other documents.
When asked by Jordan if he had ever rendered an opinion contrary to the business interests of his clients, Linz thought for a few seconds before answering.
“I submitted what I would say are nuanced opinions,” Linz said.
On the case in question, Linz said he worked about 50 hours.
Some strip clubs serve alcohol until 2 a.m. while others allow patrons to bring their own alcohol.
Curtis Wise, owner of Bucks Wild and Bucks Cabaret, said his clubs are equipped with metal detectors and provide contracted security guards who can keep problems to a minimum. Troublemakers are kicked out, he said.
But Jordan told Lynn much of the violent behavior spilled over into parking lots, where customers had access to guns in their vehicles.
Wise, who owns adult clubs in Texas and the United States, said the Dallas order would mean a 45% business loss for him.
Jordan said the city is restricting the hours of operation of other businesses such as pawnshops, pool halls and amusement parks.
A city witness, Maj. Samuel Sarmiento of the Dallas Police, said an increase in murders and other crimes at strip club properties prompted the city’s new police chief, Eddie García , to form a task force targeting these locations starting in March 2021.
It was part of the chief’s overall strategy of directing more resources to crime hotspots, he said.
“We had to do something about it,” Sarmiento said.
But the major said his department could not maintain the increased presence around the strip club area because it needed its officers to respond to other calls in the city. And he said some strip club owners have refused to meet with his department to discuss installing outdoor lighting and video cameras, needed to solve the shootings.