The New Orleans City Planning Commission recommended easing back on a cap on French Quarter strip clubs Tuesday, after more than 100 strip club workers and their supporters showed up to make their case at a hearing.
Officials have been considering limiting the number of clubs for a couple of years now — but the hearing comes on the heels of a crackdown on clubs over what police say are multiple cases of illegal drug use, prostitution and other illegal behavior, like inappropriate touching. The state suspended liquor licenses for several French Quarter clubs, and many are out of work as a result.
Strip club workers and their supporters filled rows of chairs and bleachers in the gymnasium at the Rosenwald Recreation Center, where the commission held its hearing. Sabel Mongold was among a handful of strippers who urged the commission to recommend easing back on a city council proposal that would eventually cut the number of French Quarter strip clubs in half.
"We are a vivid and valid section of this community, and a valuable part of this town’s economy," she said.
The original proposal, put forward by city councilwoman Stacy Head, would bring the number of French Quarter clubs down to seven over time. It would cap the clubs at their current number — about 14 — and ban the opening of new clubs in the French Quarter. As clubs closed or went out of business, no clubs could reopen in their place as long as there were more than seven clubs.
The planning commission voted to recommend a different proposal that would cap the number at 14 — which is about how many there are now. Additional clubs could open, but they would have to get approval from the city council first.
The commission's recommendation goes on to the city council. The city council can move forward on it, or stick to the original, more stringent proposal.