City Hall

Federal Judge Says Sexually Oriented Businesses Can Stay Open Late … For Now

Protesters outside Dallas City Hall in January chanted "crime knows no time" as city officials considered an ordinance that would close sexually oriented businesses in the early morning hours.
Protesters outside Dallas City Hall in January chanted "crime knows no time" as city officials considered an ordinance that would close sexually oriented businesses in the early morning hours. Jacob Vaughn
The same day Dallas City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that would close down sexually oriented businesses from 2 a.m.-6 a.m., the businesses filed a lawsuit claiming the restrictions were unconstitutional.

Dallas officials and the Dallas Police Department have claimed that the businesses are tied to crime during the early morning hours and they have data to prove it. But this week, in a ruling in the lawsuit against the city, a federal judge said the data was flawed and temporarily blocked the city from enforcing the new hours.

“The court concludes that the data relied on by the City Council does not fairly support the city’s stated rationale for the ordinance of reducing crime because the data artificially enhances crime data associated with (sexually oriented businesses), and in doing so, unfairly attributes adverse secondary effects to SOBs,” U.S. Chief District Judge Barbara Lynn wrote in her order granting the club's request for a temporary injunction.

In other words, the judge said what people opposing the ordinance have argued all along.

Rocky Carlson, the general manager of Tiger Cabaret, told the Observer earlier this year that the way DPD compiled its data blamed SOBs for crimes that didn’t even occur on their properties. DPD’s crime stats on the SOBs also included the 500-foot area surrounding the businesses. The area surrounding Tiger Cabaret is home to two hotels and a pawn shop.

“The pawnshop has had at least three robberies in the last year. They go in there at gunpoint and hold these places up,” Carlson said. “How are we responsible for what happens at the pawnshop 150 feet from us? I mean, we’re not.”

Reached for comment, a DPD spokesperson told the Observer by email: “We are aware of the court’s ruling. We have no additional comment at this time.”

In mid-April, Lynn said she was close to reaching a decision on whether the city could begin enforcing the SOB ordinance. The city agreed four months prior that it wouldn’t enforce the hours until Lynn’s decision on the injunction. In the meantime, though, Dallas would try to strip SOBs of their licenses citing the ordinance and other criminal activity.

In early April, DPD was planning for a hearing in front of the permit and license appeal board, where it planned to argue the Xposed Adult Theater and Megastore should have its SOB license taken away, citing marijuana possession on the property. The following month, another permit and license appeal board hearing was scheduled during which DPD planned argue licenses should be taken away from Tiger Cabaret and Bucks Wild, two local exotic dance clubs, citing the SOB ordinance.

Both hearings were canceled before the recent ruling.

But the city’s patience had run thin, leading the attorney’s office last week to send a letter to Lynn requesting a decision on the injunction soon.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Assistant Attorney Stacy Jordan Rodriguez wrote to Lynn saying the city wanted to begin enforcing the new hours on Thursday. “The city is concerned about the potential for violent criminal incidents during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend,” Rodriguez wrote.

Rodriguez said four shootings in the last month had taken place at or been linked to SOBs. The shootings occurred between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., according to Rodriguez.

The city got a decision before Memorial Day weekend, albeit not the one it wanted. “The failure to include information about non-SOBs renders the city’s reliance on this evidence unreasonable,” Lynn wrote.

Throughout the case, Lynn has said she has problems with DPD’s data. For example, Lynn didn’t like that the police included citations and arrests stemming from traffic stops that didn’t have any connection to SOBs other than their proximity. Additionally, the ordinance didn’t carve out any exception for adult book stores, even though DPD’s own data showed crime was less prevalent around the stores compared to other SOBs.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn