Police: Stings at Jacksonville strip clubs are 'nothing new'

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says investigations are based on vice squad intel

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some of Jacksonville’s strip clubs have been under the microscope in recent weeks with the Sheriff’s Office making at least two dozen arrests after sting operations by the agency’s vice squad.

The latest bust played out Saturday following an investigation into complaints of prostitution and adult entertainment code violations at SOS Gentleman’s Club on U.S. 17. Eleven women were arrested on charges ranging from simulating sexual activity to soliciting for prostitution.

It comes less than three weeks after nine women were taken into custody May 15 on charges that they violated the adult entertainment code governing the activities at Gate Gentleman’s Club. Last month, four women were arrested in response to complaints at Centerfold Lounge.

The complaints that led to the investigations are rooted in allegations that some dancers at the clubs were engaged in prostitution, dancing too provocatively, or being in varying states of nudity while alcohol was being served in the establishments, all of which are illegal.

Despite that, some staffers at the clubs believe the stings aren’t legitimate, saying their co-workers are wearing proper attire when they’re supposed to. None of the women, whose ages range from 18 to 40, indicated they were victims of human trafficking.

But the Sheriff’s Office contends these investigations, which are “nothing new” and “routinely worked,” are based on extensive intelligence gathered by the vice squad.

“Focus is on all levels of vice crimes to include prostitution, illegal massage businesses, illegal escorts, public lewdness, illegal pornography, illegal liquor and tobacco sales to minors, gambling, counterfeit products, adult entertainment violations, as well as illegal drug sales in these places,” the agency said in part. 

Though the laws are being enforced here in Jacksonville, a local lawyer said the laws for strip clubs are less strict in cities like Miami and Tampa. Attorney John Holzbaur said there are state laws, but Jacksonville has its own municipal ordinance, or law, in place.

“There are state laws that are overarching, but the city of Jacksonville has taken it upon itself to create an ordinance that specifically prohibits nude dancing at establishments that serve alcohol,” he said.

Holzbaur said Jacksonville’s laws aren’t antiquated, but rather they might be geared toward cracking down on another, more serious problem.

“These ordinances seem to be very fluid and they are reacting to the very real problem that is front and center today – things like human trafficking, which we read about every day,” he said.

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