City Hall

Dallas Wants Your Opinion on Whether Sexually Oriented Businesses Ought to Close Earlier

Jacob Vaughn
Senate Bill 315 raised the age requirement for employees at sexually oriented businesses from 18 to 21.
Dallas is considering new restrictions on sexually oriented businesses. The state recently said employees at these businesses need to be 21 or older. Now, some in the city consider telling them when they can be open.

City Council member Adam Bazaldua proposed the idea at last week’s Quality of Life, Arts and Culture Committee meeting. Bazaldua, the chair of the committee, cited similar restrictions in nearby cities like Plano, where such businesses must close between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. In Dallas, there are no limitations on the hours of operations for these sorts of businesses unless they serve alcohol.

“This is to address being able to better regulate hours of operation for businesses that we have seen have criminal activity and where it’s been most prominent and there’s data to support that with the presentation,” Bazaldua said.

Kristie Smith lives in District 7, Bazaldua’s part of town, and says she’s conflicted about the proposed restriction. Smith said there’s a club near her home that’s open until 5 a.m. and lets patrons bring their own booze. Crime seems to be a problem in the parking lot, so she can understand wanting something to change.

But she also understands that the state comptroller collects a fee from these businesses and the first $25 million generated by the fee every year is dedicated to the Sexual Assault Program Fund. These dollars cover the cost of programs relating to prevention, intervention and research provided by nonprofits, municipalities and the state. Excess funds are deposited to the Texas Health Opportunity Pool.

She worries about what kind of dent would be left in these funds if more restrictions are imposed on the sexually oriented businesses that help raise them.

Dallas has a history of imposing restrictions on sexually oriented businesses.

In 1986, citing similar measures in other cities, Dallas enacted a chapter in the city's code “to promote the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the citizens of the city, and to establish reasonable and uniform regulations to prevent the continued concentration of [sexually oriented businesses] within the city.”

The chapter created zoning restrictions that required sexually oriented businesses to be a thousand feet away from each other, as well as churches, schools, residential areas and parks. The code also defined a sexually oriented business as “an adult arcade, adult bookstore or adult video store, adult cabaret, adult motel, adult motion picture theater, adult theater, escort agency, nude model studio, or sexual encounter center.”

It also defined nudity and the “state of nudity” as the “appearance of a bare buttock, anus, male genitals, female genitals or female breast.”

Businesses didn’t want to be deemed sexually oriented by the city, making them subject to the new restrictions, which would have forced some to relocate. So, they changed their dancers attire to “simulate” nudity. Dancers would now wear bikini bottoms and flesh-colored pasties. This made these businesses eligible for dance hall licenses from the city, allowing them to stay put.

Then, the city amended the city code to include a new class of dance halls – Class D – which included definitions for semi-nudity and simulated nudity. If the businesses didn’t adopt, they’d again face the prospect of having the relocate.

So, they changed things up again. Dancers would now wear non-flesh colored pasties and bikini bottoms that covered pubic region and buttocks. The city adapted too in the '90s, changing the city code to account for this loophole. They used crime statistics that suggested sex crimes were more prevalent near these businesses to support the change.

A bit more back and forth over the years has led to the current state of the city code regulating sexually oriented businesses.

The new state age requirement for employees at sexually oriented businesses has sparked the conversation again about what restrictions should be in place in Dallas.

The Quality of Life, Arts and Culture Committee will hold a public hearing on the proposed change on Dec. 5. At the hearing, DPD will present data to support possible restrictions on the hours of operation for sexually oriented businesses. Dallas residents can also comment if they sign up by 5 p.m. on Dec. 3.