Dallas can’t force strip clubs to close at 2 a.m., judge says

A federal judge temporarily blocked Dallas from forcing strip clubs and other sex-oriented businesses to close between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., saying data presented by police to city officials did not properly justify the limitations.

U.S. Chief District Judge Barbara Lynn said on Tuesday that police statistics showing high crime near sex businesses presented to city council members before they vote in the unanimity to approve the restrictions in January were wrong. The judge said she believed the numbers were improperly inflated and did not accurately reflect the impact of sex-based businesses on Dallas crime and police and fire department resources.

“The court finds that the data relied upon by the city council does not fairly support the city’s stated rationale for the crime reduction order because the data artificially enhances crime data associated with (businesses in sexual character) and, in doing so, unfairly attribute side effects to SOBs,” Lynn wrote in a court notice.

Lynn also said the hour restrictions would limit free speech expression for strip club workers who may only be able to work at night. Several club workers told council members in January that most of their business came after 2 a.m. and that they could only work at night to support their families.

Dallas Assistant City Attorney Stacy Jordan Rodriguez declined to comment.

Roger Albright, an attorney for the Association of Club Executives of Dallas, a trade organization that represents five sex businesses suing Dallas for change, welcomed Lynn’s decision.

“The court’s decision is a significant victory for free speech protected by the First Amendment, and of course we are pleased that the court has issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the order,” he said. he said on Tuesday.

The lawsuit led to the city agreeing not to enforce the ban until Lynn’s decision. A city attorney wrote to Lynn last week urging her to make a decision quickly because city officials wanted to start enforcing the new rules by Thursday due to a possible increase in violence during Memorial Day weekend.

Lawyers for the city and the Dallas Club Managers Association had been waiting for Lynn to issue the ruling since April 6.

The lawsuit against the city argues that since the hour restrictions only target late-night sex businesses, they violate constitutionally protected free speech. The lawsuit also argues that the restrictions would have a significant impact on businesses’ revenues, result in the loss of their jobs and have other repercussions.

Lawyers representing the companies initially raised questions about the data used by the police department to justify the new rules.

City prosecutors and police say the time restrictions are meant to promote public safety. They defended the data presented to elected officials and Lynn: They say crimes and emergency calls occurring after 2 a.m. in some strip clubs are tying up police and fire department resources and frustrating the goal of the city to reduce violent crime.

Police analysis of arrests and emergency calls captured within 500 feet of licensed sex businesses between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from 2019 to 2021 shows they were linked to a large number of violent crimes and emergency calls – especially after 2 a.m. Data shows that officers made nearly 2,100 arrests at or near sex businesses between 2019 and 2021.

The police department did no similar analysis of crimes within 500 feet of any other nighttime businesses for comparison. Many of Dallas’ sex businesses are located near hotels, gas stations, liquor stores, and other businesses that operate early in the morning.

Lynn, in her Tuesday memo, said the statistics included crimes near empty buildings that still had active commercial sex city licenses. Police included crimes that occurred within 500 feet of strip clubs and other businesses that did not necessarily reflect crimes related to activity in establishments.

The data did not take into account whether businesses were open or closed at the time of the crimes, she said. And the judge challenged police including citations and arrests from a unit created to patrol sex businesses last year in northwest Dallas. Lynn noted testimony from a deputy chief who said many citations and arrests stemmed from traffic stops and that many of those involved had nothing to do with a sex business.

“Because protected speech occurs in SOBs regardless of the time of day, the city’s evidence is, at best, probative only as to which particular four-hour window has more or less crime, d arrests or calls to locations within 500 feet of SOBs, but says nothing about whether protected speech during SOBs – the unchanging constant in city data – caused the observed variations” , Lynn wrote, “Failure to include non-SOB information renders the city’s reliance on this evidence unreasonable.”

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