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Jacksonville strip clubs sue city over raised age limit

The law in Jacksonville was enacted March 5 in a bid to reduce human trafficking.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Adult clubs in Jacksonville are suing over a new law that raised the minimum age for strippers from 18 to 21.

The law in Jacksonville was enacted March 5 in a bid to reduce human trafficking. But lawyers for the clubs, including the lead plaintiff Wacko’s, contend in a federal lawsuit that it violates the First Amendment by restricting the ability of performers to dance.

“The Constitution does not permit the deprivation of First Amendment rights based on the age of ... citizens who have attained the age of 18,” attorneys Gary Edinger and James Benjamin argue in a complaint filed in the names of 13 businesses and four dancers, two of them under age 21.

The Florida Times-Union reported that after the law was signed, the clubs were prevented from using close to 100 dancers under age 21 during a two-week period, according to the lawsuit.

The 140-page suit notes that people under 21 can hold any other job at those businesses, even own the clubs.

The law also requires performers to get work identification cards from the sheriff’s office.

“Research shows these victims are more likely to be trafficked by someone within his or her community and that the average age of sex trafficking is 17,” Mayor Lenny Curry said at the bill signing. “These statistics are appalling.”

Chad Schull, general manager of The Doll House, told News4Jax he feels the city acted too quickly without consulting with the clubs.

“Our input is needed,” Schull said. “My fear is that it’s going to take a lot of these girls and send them to hotels, send them traveling out of town, it’s going to send them into other situations where they are not monitored by myself or my security staff or anybody else. There could be repercussions that are not safe for them.”

City attorneys have not yet responded to the lawsuit.