There could be an interesting constitutional case brewing in the Big Easy. As some know on the blog, I spent a few years in Louisiana and lived in New Orleans while teaching at Tulane Law School. The city has changed a bit after Katrina, but some of the biggest changes are social. The French Quarter always had a certain raunchy edge with strip clubs and seedy bars. Now, it is packed with tee-shirt shops and . . . tee shirt shops. Politicians have taken particular effort in cracking down on strip clubs and a new measure would likely cut the current 23 clubs to 7. That raises a serious question of the disparate treatment given adult entertainment business, a subject that we have previously discussed.
Exotic dancers have protested the measure that would effectively cap the number of strip clubs. This follows a state law limiting dancers to women over the age of 21. The dancers and owners charge that the laws are little more than morality legislation disguised as public policy.
The new measures are the outgrowth of a study by Planning Commission staff that proposed capping the number of Bourbon Street strip clubs at 14 and instituting new spacing requirements designed to break up clusters of clubs in single blocks. The study supports claims that strip clubs are linked to human trafficking, prostitution and illegal drugs in and near the French Quarter. However, those are problems that can be addressed through the enforcement of current laws. There has long been an interesting alliance between the religious right and feminists in seeking to shutdown these clubs in the name of public health.
City and state laws already forbid sexual activity at the clubs. It is also illegal for customers to touch dancers. Moreover, that is a ban on performances offstage partially by nude dancers.
The reduction of these clubs to just seven establishments could give rise to claims of the violation of due process, equal protection, and even bills of attainder. My libertarian tendencies tend to activate at moments like this. I have no interest and have never gone into one of these clubs. However, the effort to remove businesses that are legal and obviously popular raises concerns over the public enforcement of a de facto morality code.
What do you think?