BREAKING NEWS

City of Jacksonville pays strip club owners, dancers $60K in federal settlement

Owners sued city over constitutional rights

Many of Jacksonville's biggest strip clubs have a new deal with city attorneys that is years in the making. With a new settlement in federal court, not only are taxpayer funds paying the businesses and dancers $60,000, police also have new restrictions on how they can investigate these venues.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many of Jacksonville’s biggest strip clubs have a new deal with city attorneys that is years in the making.

With a new settlement in federal court, not only are taxpayer funds paying the businesses and dancers $60,000, police also have new restrictions on how they can investigate these venues.

It’s a controversial topic that’s been in the court system since attorneys representing owners filed a lawsuit in 2018.

“Jacksonville keeps me very busy, said Gainesville-based attorney Gary Edinger, who filed the suit on behalf of about a dozen adult entertainment clubs.

Edinger claims the city was violating the businesses’ constitutional rights in a number of ways. He felt the outcome is fair.

“Settlements are difficult,” he told News4JAX. “The plaintiffs did not get everything they wanted. Obviously, the city would have preferred to pay nothing. But it’s an appropriate settlement.”

Edinger pointed out police raids at local clubs, which he contends were against the law. He said they were done to enforce possible code violations and were not involving criminal cases, pointing out he has no objection to legitimate criminal investigations and arrests relating to prostitution or drugs.

In the lawsuit, Wacko’s Too et al. v. the City of Jacksonville and Sheriff Mike Williams, Edinger and other lawyers argued that businesses like Wacko’s lost revenue when they were shut down and dancers were also affected because they couldn’t work.

That’s what led to the settlement for $60,000 in compensation to the businesses and dancers. Legal fees have not been addressed and could cost taxpayers significantly more.

Edinger balked at claims that some city leaders have made linking clubs with human trafficking.

“B*******. That’s b*******,” he said. “Here’s the fact the City of Jacksonville has never made a human trafficking arrest in an adult entertainment system, not in the bikini bars and not in the nude clubs. The number of arrests for human trafficking is zero.”

He pointed out that dancers charged with adult entertainment code ordinances, like uniform violations, should have been ticketed for civil violations and not arrested on criminal charges.

News4JAX reached out to the city through the mayor’s office and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office about the settlement. So far, neither has commented. Agencies typically do not respond publicly as cases are still being litigated.

Besides Wacko’s, the plaintiffs include the owners of Emperors, Passions, Sinsations, Bare Assets, Cocktails Lounge, Centerfold Lounge, SOS Lounge and New Solid Gold.

Federal documents from the courtroom of Judge Timothy Corrigan show the details of the partial settlement:

  • The city is paying for damages from the clubs being shut down for police searches.
  • It’s paying the dancers who were arrested for code violations -- like not wearing enough clothing or getting too close to customers.
  • JSO can now charge businesses an annual fee of $1,000, and dancers must pay for a $100 permit
  • Police must delete photos of dancers in their database after the legal time to store them under state records laws.
  • Undercover detectives need a warrant for a raid -- they can’t just go onto the premises and make probable cause arrests.

There are still a half dozen issues that haven’t been settled, most prominently the minimum age for dancers. City codes recently set the age at 21. Many club owners want it to go back to 18 like many other cities in Florida.


About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.