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Judge Will Rule Soon on New Hours of Operation for Sexually Oriented Businesses

The Dallas City Council unanimously approved new restrictions for sexually oriented business. The same day, the city was sued. They've been in court ever since.
The Dallas City Council unanimously approved new restrictions for sexually oriented business. The same day, the city was sued. They've been in court ever since. Jacob Vaughn
A federal judge said last week that they’re nearing a decision on the constitutionality of a new ordinance restricting hours for sexually oriented businesses (SOBs) in Dallas.

The city has been in court with the SOBs since it passed the ordinance in January which was meant to close the businesses between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The lawsuit was expected to be resolved after one day in court, but hearings have continued.

On Wednesday, they met for another hearing, when Dallas attorneys would argue that the businesses contribute to crime and use up too many police resources during those hours. Police have provided crime statistics they claim proves their case.

The SOBs, on the other hand, say the data is flawed and that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it’s content based and a violation of their First Amendment rights. Also, closing down during the proposed hours would mean losing a bulk of their customers. Their problem with the data is it seems incomplete because the police didn’t compare the violent crime statistics to other businesses that are open at the same time.

Many different businesses qualify as SOBs. There’s strip clubs and cabarets, but there are also novelty shops like Paris Adult Book Store in Dallas. Julie Villa, a shift lead at the store, said she’s been working there for the last seven months. She usually works the day shift but says nights are when they make their money. Employees at the store have been anxious about the proposed restrictions.

"My employees, my staff, they’re all worried about their hours being cut and whether they’ll have jobs." – Julie Villa, Paris Adult Book Store

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“My employees, my staff, they’re all worried about their hours being cut and whether they’ll have jobs,” Villa told the Observer. “Those hours between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., that’s when we make the most revenue.”

Pictures of a recent inspection of Paris Adult Book Store were shown during a hearing last month on the SOB ordinance. Dallas Police Major Devon Palk took the stand and explained that the store didn’t really sell books. They mostly sell sex toys and there’s a “digital video arcade” in the back. “That’s a section of the store where patrons can go and get a private viewing room and see sexually explicit videos,” Palk said in court, according to CBS.

The problem is that the police are trying to use the crime data to justify the ordinance, but stats around “adult bookstores” showed crime was less prevalent, compared to other SOBs. But the city said shoppers at adult bookstores usually like to remain anonymous, not participating in criminal investigations. They said this is why crime stats around adult book stores looked low. There’s been no sign that the city will make an exception for the novelty shops.

During last week's hearing, Ana Marie Jordan, the city's attorney, said, "Our ordinance does not in any way require the permanent closure of any adult businesses and there has been no allegation in the pleading or no evidence establishing that any type of sexually oriented business will close down as a result."

Villa sees it differently. Under the ordinance, she said, “Some of our stores would probably close.”

She's not sure what a judge will decide. “To be honest, I don’t know. It’s really up in the air at this point,” Villa added. “It’s a battle between the city and its people.”
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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

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