Jacksonville pays $60K to two local strip clubs in lawsuit settlement over ‘costume violations’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two local strip clubs are fighting back for their first amendment rights.

This month the City of Jacksonville agreed to pay a $60,000 settlement to Wacko’s and Emperor’s Gentlemen’s Clubs.

“The issues we settled at mediation were financial issues involving illegal arrests of performers, illegal searches at Wackos and the closure of clubs associated with performer arrests,” the strip clubs’ attorney Gary Edinger said.

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Edinger said they sued the city because police started arresting dancers for “costume violations” which violated a previously established consent order from years ago.

“We discovered that the city literally forgot the consent order existed which is why they started to enforce it after all these years,” Edinger said.

He said, oftentimes, police raided these clubs without reason.

“What the police did, is they took complete control over the clubs. They confined the performers to the dressing room, took their photos as they came out individually. Even dancers that were not accused of committing any crime were detained and photographed,” Edinger said.

In 2020, the city adopted a new human trafficking ordinance which created new rules regarding age and licensing for dancers.

A federal judge ruled the licensing requirements in that law were unconstitutional.

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As a result, an amendment to that ordinance is on the table at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Still up in the air is a final federal ruling on the 21-or-older age requirement for dancers, but the proposed amendment to the city ordinance is going ahead and removing it.

Edinger said the city is obligated to respect the clubs and dancers’ rights and that starts with educating police.

“There are some reforms going on in particular education of the police as to the circumstances in which they can conduct inspections which are very limited and really the need to get warrants,” Edinger said.

The settlement sets new limits on policing clubs. This includes limiting police access to nonpublic areas like dressing rooms without a warrant or consent. Performers must also be processed in public areas only during police inspections.

The settlement also states police cannot photograph performers unless they are charged with a crime and the database of performer photos maintained by JSO must be deleted in accordance with government record-retention law.

“Clubs have fourth amendment rights like anybody else,” Edinger said.

Action News Jax reached out to both club owners. Emperor’s declined to comment and Wacko’s did not reply.

We also reached out to the city for comment but have not heard back.

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