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Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Antitrust Law Invoked|in Topless Lap Dances

HOUSTON (CN) - Houston takes bribes from 16 strip clubs to let their employees do topless lap dances, a competing club owner claims in a federal antitrust lawsuit.

Houston KP LLC, the owner of Scores Houston Gentlemen's Club, sued the City of Houston on Wednesday.

Houston KP calls itself HKP in the complaint.

It claims that in November 2013 Houston settled numerous lawsuits arising from the city's regulation of sexually oriented businesses.

The agreement, which took effect Jan. 1, involves 16 clubs that pay annual fees into a "Human Trafficking Abatement Fund," HKP says in the lawsuit.

In return, the city grants the clubs "immunity" from its strip club regulations, HKP claims.

Houston passed an ordinance in 1997 that prohibits a sexually oriented business within 1,500 feet of a school, church, park or daycare; requires business owners to get a permit; makes it illegal for an entertainer to touch or come closer than 3 feet to a customer; and levies a $5 per customer tax on strip clubs.

HKP claims the settlement gives the 16 clubs an unfair advantage.

"Under the Agreement, they are free to offer topless lap dances in their clubs without adhering to the 'no touch' and 'three foot' rules, and without paying the $5 per customer tax, as otherwise required by city law," the complaint states.

"Because HKP must abide by city law, HKP cannot compete for customers in the same manner as the Clubs, which has caused - and will continue to cause - HKP to lose business and, ultimately, fail, further causing the loss of a substantial seven-figure investment HKP spent to rehabilitate the site on which its club is located."

Since the deal took effect, HKP says, its club revenue has fallen by $1,500 a day and it's in danger of going out of business.

HKP seeks treble damages of more than $1 million for antitrust and civil rights violations.

It also wants an injunction to stop Houston from enforcing the settlement and a declaration that the agreement "constitutes an illegal bribery scheme."

HKP is represented by Jeremy Gaston with Hawash Meade Gaston Neese & Cicack.

Houston's public relations director, Janice Evans, was not immediately available for comment.

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