A proposal to ban nudity in cabarets and require city licensing for “seminude” cabarets and dancers is up for discussion at Tuesday’s Waco City Council meeting.
An overhaul of the city’s sexually oriented business ordinance also would prohibit private “VIP” rooms at cabarets and forbid performers from touching customers, such as in lap dances, or performing closer than 6 feet from them.
City Attorney Jennifer Richie said the proposed ordinance is “mainstream” among Texas cities and could be defended in court easily based on decades of case law.
“These are changes that are normal among municipal governments,” she said. “We not trying to be cutting-edge or out on a limb.”
The city will hold a public meeting on the ordinance at 6 p.m. March 24 at the City Operations Center, 1415 N. Fourth St., and the council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance April 1.
The ordinance would have an immediate impact on the Waco area’s only all-nude club, Sonny’s BYOB, forcing dancers to wear pasties and G-strings. It also would require licensing for Two Minnies and Showtime, strip clubs that don’t offer total nudity.
Dancers at all those clubs would have to get individual licenses from the city, with an upfront cost of $50 and a renewal cost of $25. Licenses would be denied to dancers with criminal records that include prostitution or other similar offenses.
Sonny’s was closed Monday, and operators of the two other clubs could not be reached for comment.
The ordinance also would affect adult bookstores and novelty stores, including a store that recently opened on New Road.
Under a related zoning ordinance, sexually oriented businesses would not be allowed within 600 feet of a residence, school, park, church or another sexually oriented business, and they would be banned in most zoning categories.
But existing businesses would be grandfathered as long as their licenses are not revoked for violations.
“The bottom line is, they’re not going to have to relocate,” assistant city attorney Dean Roggia said.
The ordinance also steps up the penalties for operators who violate the ordinance, allowing for Class A misdemeanor charges for serious violations. Current violations are handled as Class C misdemeanors. Operators with criminal backgrounds would be denied licenses.
Richie said the purpose of the tougher ordinance is to protect the public from negative “secondary effects” of sexually oriented businesses, which she said can include prostitution, human trafficking and sex crimes, as well as blight and lowered property values.
Eliminating private rooms and requiring that all parts of sexually oriented businesses be visible to management should minimize the potential for trouble, Richie said.
The city of Waco in 2011 and 2012 battled Sonny’s BYOB after police raids on several occasions found evidence of prostitution in the “high roller rooms” at the club at 2300 S. Loop 340.
The city revoked the club’s sexually oriented business license in 2011, forcing dancers to cover up with pasties and G-strings.
Club operators claimed they were not responsible for the prostitution because the dancers were “independent contractors.”
Sonny’s sued the city in federal court, arguing for “freedom of expression” protections, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in late 2012 affirmed the city’s right to revoke the license.
Sonny’s BYOB reapplied for a sexually oriented business license in 2012 in the name of a new partnership that involved the same family as the previous owner, and nude dancing resumed that summer.
Meanwhile, the club operator who brought the Sonny’s lawsuit, John “Bucky” Skruck, has other problems to worry about.
Federal officials indicted him on charges of being the ringleader in the nation’s largest synthetic hallucinogen case in West Virginia, but he failed to show up for his trial last May.
After an eight-month manhunt, federal officials arrested Skruck in New Mexico in January. He now is awaiting trial.