A strip club in Texas was granted a temporary court order to stay open after police raided the club and threatened its owner with arrest if he didn’t remain shuttered amid coronavirus lockdown measures.
Club Onyx opened its doors at midnight on Friday after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order allowing some businesses, including restaurants and retail stores, to reopen at limited capacity.
Owner Eric Langan told the Houston Chronicle that he was operating his business as a full-service restaurant, with strippers providing entertainment for diners at the club in the same way a piano player might entertain people at a steakhouse.
“I’m operating as a restaurant. You have to order food. There’s a sign on the front door — you must be coming here to eat,” he said.
But officers from the Houston Police Department raided Club Onyx within an hour of it opening and said the business did not qualify under Abbott’s order. Langan initially resisted, but then shut the club at around 4 a.m. after being threatened with arrest.
Trumps Inc., the business Langan owns, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the raid and forced closure of the club had violated his civil rights. He claimed that his business was operating as a restaurant and therefore should be permitted to open.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore granted Langan a temporary restraining order allowing him to reopen Club Onyx on Friday evening, the Chronicle reported. The order also prohibited police from arresting employees.
Langan said around 180 customers visited that night and followed social distancing and sanitation guidelines, adding there was “no touching” between customers and the strippers.
Dallas Police Department officers patrol through downtown Dallas in horseback on May 01, 2020 in Dallas, Texas.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
“There’s no putting money in G-strings sort of thing. They throw money on the stage and girls pick it up after they’re done and bring it to their locker,” he told the Chronicle.
A post on the club’s Facebook page this week said: “Seating will be limited as we will be following state guidelines and health recommendations of social distancing. We will have sanitary stations set up with hand sanitizer and all staff will be practicing the strictest sanitary guidelines.”
He added that a court order for a permanent injunction is scheduled for this coming Friday.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that Club Onyx operated as a “sexually oriented business” before the coronavirus outbreak, Click 2 Houston reported.
In a statement, Turner said he is seeking to clarify whether Abbott intended for such businesses to be part of his order.
“If not, I am also asking the state via the Texas Attorney General to enforce the state’s order because the city cannot afford to expend its limited resources, i.e. fire and police, to defend the state’s order that a federal judge is now questioning,” he said. Turner has been contacted for additional comment.
The Chronicle reported that Langan showed authorities his permit from the Houston Health Department that lists the club as a “full-service restaurant” but it is listed as a sexually orientated business on its liquor license.
Langan and the Houston Police Department have been contacted for additional comment.
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