DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas City Council on Wednesday, January 26 voted unanimously to restrict operating hours for sexually oriented businesses (SOBs) in an effort to reduce violent crime.
The new regulations require SOBs, which must be licensed to operate by the police department, to close between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The SOBs will also be forbidden under the City Code from hiring or contracting with anyone under the age of 21. The latter change matches a new state law that is meant to combat human trafficking – a top priority of Mayor Eric Johnson.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia also recommended the changes to the City Code as part of his department’s crackdown on violent crime.
“This unanimous vote proves once again that public safety is our top priority,” Mayor Johnson said. “By restricting operating hours for these businesses, we are taking another step forward in our ‘kitchen sink’ approach to public safety that helped Dallas buck the national trends and reduce violent crime in 2021.”
Johnson said he believes the change will help make Dallas even safer.
The changes bring Dallas in line with other Texas cities — including El Paso, Fort Worth, Plano, and San Antonio — that have restricted operating hours for SOBs.
In Dallas, Chief Garcia formed a departmental task force in March 2021 to address frequent crime at SOBs. The task force’s work led to the recommendation to restrict operating hours.
“We have requested clear plans to address violent crime where it occurs. We have asked police commanders to make data-driven decisions. We have called for solutions that would alleviate the burdens on our police department by eliminating the need for a police response,” Mayor Johnson said. “This plan accomplishes all of those objectives.”
The proposal was first introduced to the City Council in December by City Councilmember Adam Bazaldua. The Public Safety Committee, chaired by Adam McGough, voted in favor of the proposal and sent it to the full City Council for a briefing on Jan. 5. Two days later, Mayor Johnson scheduled a vote for Jan. 26.
McGough and Bazaldua lauded the vote Wednesday.
“The recommendation is data-driven, well-documented and makes common sense, and I’m proud my colleagues and I did our part to support the Dallas Police Department’s efforts to reduce violent crime in Dallas,” said Chairman McGough.
“Today, we made an informed decision based on data and research,” said Chairman Bazaldua. “These changes are reasonable. We are prioritizing public safety for survivors of human trafficking, residents, and first responders during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This crime reduction plan will help lessen our reliance on police resources and they will make our city safer.”
Businesses File Lawsuit Against Dallas
In response to the City Council’s vote, several SOBs filed a lawsuit against the City of Dallas.
The group is comprised of the Association of Club Executives of Dallas Inc (ACE) and several individual businesses, including PT’s Men’s Club, Silver City, Men’s Club of Dallas, Buck’s Wild, and New Fine Arts Shiloh.
They plaintiffs argued that the ordinance will “suppress and restrain the dissemination and presentation of constitutionally protected expression and impose a prior restrain.” Because the ordinance specifically singles out SOBs but allows other businesses to continue to operate between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., they argue that it represents an infringement of the right to constitutionally protected speech.
“The compelled closure of ACE’s members’ and the named Plaintiffs’ businesses will result in the complete loss of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to sell and present constitutionally protected media and performances during those hours,” the suit argued.
Furthermore, the suit claims, restrictions would also cause economic harm to not only the businesses, but to their workers as well. It would cause people to lose their jobs, largely impacting service workers and young people who are more likely to work and patronize SOBs during the targeted hours.
The suit asks that the court declare the ordinance unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. It also asks the court to impose a injunction preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance.