The city of Houston has reached a settlement with a group of strip clubs that would halt enforcement of the three-foot rule and allow dancers to be fully topless in exchange for an annual $1 million donation to help combat human trafficking, Mayor Annise Parker announced Wednesday.
The money will fund a newly-created Houston Police Department unit dedicated solely to investigating human trafficking.
The agreement, which must be approved by City Council, will bring an end to a series of lawsuits since the city passed its sexually oriented business ordinance in 1997. The settlement only applies to the 16 clubs involved in the negotiated agreement.
Among the provisions of that ordinance was a rule requiring dancers to remain at least three feet from audience members. The law also required dancers to wear pasties, obtain licenses from the city, and prohibited clubs from having private so-called VIP rooms.
Under the settlement, the businesses agreed to eliminate private rooms, train employees on human trafficking awareness and report all complaints of prostitution, indecent exposure and drug use to police.
“Establishing a working relationship with these 16 clubs will assist law enforcement in reducing criminal activity, help us combat human trafficking and, hopefully, allow us to focus police resources on the rogue clubs,” Parker said. “This settlement allows us to address the problem head on in a meaningful way with funding and staff.”
The city’s sexually oriented business ordinance, passed in 1997, also requires strip clubs to operate at least 1,500 feet from schools, day cares, parks and churches.