Dallas wants to begin enforcing new rules requiring all strip clubs and other sexually oriented businesses to close by 2 am starting next week.
The City Council unanimously approved the first-ever restrictions on operating hours for sex-based businesses in January, saying they can’t be open between 2 am and 6 am any night of the week. But a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of some of the businesses led to the city agreeing not to enforce the ban until a judge rules whether to grant the businesses’ request to block the restrictions from being administered.
Dallas Assistant City Attorney Stacy Jordan Rodriguez wrote US Chief District Judge Barbara Lynn on Monday saying the city wants a decision from her soon because officials want to begin enforcing the rules starting next Thursday.
Rodriguez says four shootings within the last month between 4 am and 5:30 am have happened at or are linked to sexually oriented businesses.
People were injured in all of those shootings, Rodriguez wrote to Lynn, and one person was killed.
Attorneys for the city and the Association of Club Executives of Dallas, a trade organization that represents five sexually oriented businesses suing Dallas over the change, have been waiting for Lynn to issue a ruling since April 6.
“These incidents that have occurred since the conclusion of the preliminary injunction hearing are placing the city in an increasingly difficult position, as it has now been nearly four months since the ordinance was passed by the Dallas City Council,” Rodriguez wrote. “The city is concerned about the potential for violent criminal incidents during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend.”
The lawsuit against the city argues that since the hour restrictions target only sex-based businesses open late night it infringes on constitutionally protected freedom of expression. The suit also argues that the restrictions would heavily impact the businesses’ revenues, cause workers to lose their jobs and have other trickle-down impacts. Attorneys representing the businesses have also questioned the data used by the police department to justify the new rules.
There are 27 licensed sexually oriented businesses operating in the city. Eighteen are strip clubs and the rest are a combination of book stores, video stores, theaters and others. About 80% of these businesses are located in northwestern Dallas.
Five strip clubs and two adult video stores close by 2 am All the other strip clubs close after 2 am at least two nights a week. Some close at 5 am or 6 am every night. The other seven adult stores are open 24 hours.
City attorneys and police say the hour restrictions are to promote public safety. They’ve defended data presented to elected leaders and to Lynn to justify restricting the operating hours: They say crimes and emergency calls occurring after 2 am at some strip clubs tie up police and fire resources and hamper the city’s goal of reducing violent offenses.
A police analysis of arrests and emergency calls captured within 500 feet of licensed sexually oriented businesses between 10 pm and 6 am from 2019 to 2021 shows they were linked to high amounts of violent crime and emergency calls — particularly after 2 am The data shows officers that made close to 2,100 arrests either at or near sexually oriented businesses between 2019 and 2021.
About a third of the total — which includes violent crimes, such as aggravated assault and murder, as well as property crimes, such as burglaries and thefts — occurred between 2 am and 6 am
The police department didn’t do any similar analysis of crimes within 50 feet of any other late night businesses for comparison. Several of the sexually oriented businesses in Dallas are located near hotels, gas stations, liquor stores and other businesses that operate in the early morning hours.
In a response to Rodriguez’ letter, defense attorney J. Michael Murray said he took no issue with the city letting the judge know when they wanted to enforce the new rules. But he said he objects to the rest of the letter the city’s assertion, claiming it was all based on the word of the city’s lawyer.
“No documents or other data have been produced to plaintiffs by the city concerning these allegations,” Murray wrote to Lynn on Tuesday. “Plaintiffs also object because of the prejudicial nature of such surprise assertions that plaintiffs have had no opportunity to review, rebut or investigate.”
A clerk in Lynn’s office on Thursday declined to comment when asked when the judge planned to issue her ruling.