To combat Houston's ever-growing reputation as a hub for human trafficking, Mayor Annise Parker announced Wednesday that law enforcement will partner with a rather unlikely ally . . . strip clubs.
Ending a decade-and-a-half legal battle over regulations for sexually-oriented businesses, 16 gentlemen's clubs will pay more than $1 million annually to fund a new nine-person human trafficking unit within the Houston Police Department's Vice Division.
As part of the arrangement, the participating clubs are permitted to operate as they did prior to the city's strict 1997 ordinances, meaning that a mandatory three-foot rule between dancers and patrons will be gone with the wind. HPD, of course, will continue to enforce laws against public lewdness, prostitution, indecent exposure and narcotics.
The settlement also requires the 16 clubs to eliminate all private rooms and not hire employees convicted of drug or prostitution charges within five years of hiring. Additionally, clubs may not employ a dancer who is accompanied by another person who speaks for her, holds her identification or collects her pay for “safekeeping.”
"There will be those in the community who don't approve of this settlement. There will be those who will never be comfortable with adult entertainment venues, and I understand and respect that," Parker said during a Wednesday press conference at City Hall. "But in terms of the future of the city of Houston, this is a good step forward. It gives us tools to tackle what we think to be a more significant problem."
Here are the city's 16 new partners, as listed in the final settlement:
- Centerfolds (6166 Richmond)
- Chicas Locas (8100 North Freeway)
- Club Onyx (3113 Bering)
- Colorado Bar and Grill (6710 Southwest Freeway)
- Cover Girls (10310 West Little York)
- Gold Cup (12747 Northwest Freeway)
- The Men's Club (3303 Sage)
- Michael's International (6440 Southwest Freeway)
- Rick's Cabaret North (410 N. Sam Houston Parkway)
- Rick's Sports Cabaret (9009 Airport)
- Ritz Houston (10520 Gulf Freeway)
- Splendor (7440 W. Greens)
- Sunset Strip (2425 Mangum)
- Treasures (5647 Westheimer)
- Trophy Club (1050 Rankin)
- XTC North (11415 North Freeway)