Jacksonville strip clubs and the city council are gearing up for round two of a legal battle over age restrictions and licensing of dancers.
The new lawsuit comes after the city council tried to fix its ordinance earlier this year.
A coalition of strip clubs led by Wacko’s challenged the city’s first ordinance in 2020.
They won that suit, and the council was forced to remove a fingerprint requirement for dancers to get licenses.
But the strip clubs are arguing there are still constitutional issues.
One of the complaints focuses on language in the ordinance that permits the sheriff’s office to deny a license if they find an application to be “unsatisfactory.”
The strip clubs argue that could lead to arbitrary denials.
“Even if the dancer shows she’s qualified, the sheriff can still deny the license,” said Gary Edinger, an attorney representing the strip clubs.
Edinger said the central issue in question is whether the city can require dancers to be 21 or older.
He argues denying legal adults access to the profession violates their First Amendment Rights.
“When you’re 18 you have those same fundamental rights as anybody else and for the city to say that an 18-year-old cannot do an artistic presentation of her choice that just doesn’t fly under the first amendment,” said Edinger.
City councilmember and mayoral candidate LeAnna Cumber (R-District 5) on the other hand argued the licensing requirement is aimed at preventing underaged girls from stripping and human trafficking.
“Either the clubs are going to get behind it and say, you know what? We want to behave like legitimate businesses and we don’t want high schoolers to be in our clubs stripping for old men, or they’re not,” said Cumber.
But throughout the course of the first lawsuit, the city failed to produce any documented instances of a human trafficking arrest in Jacksonville strip clubs.
“It’s the one industry that we show is, you know, not impacted in Jacksonville by trafficking,” said Edinger.
Still, Cumber argued that doesn’t mean trafficking isn’t happening.
“We are the last major city in Florida to not have these implemented, which is also why we have such a big human trafficking issue in this city. It is so much easier here to traffic and that should not be our mantra,” said Cumber.
The lawsuit is expected to get its first hearing next week.
Action News Jax will keep you posted on-air and online as the case develops.
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