JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The battle between Jacksonville city leaders and the owners of strip clubs continues.
The owners of the majority of the adult entertainment businesses are suing the city once again, claiming ordinance changes are unconstitutional.
It’s the latest in a long battle over preventing human trafficking. It includes the debate over making dancers register with the city and raising the minimum age from 18 to 21. Both sides have very different outlooks.
The new lawsuit shows owners are fighting city leaders over an ordinance that changes the rules on adult entertainment. Jacksonville City Council member LeAnna Cumber is leading the push for more regulation, which includes dancer identification cards.
“What the dancer cards will do is make sure we do not have underage girls dancing in the strip clubs,” Cumber said. “If the owners really cared about the age of the dancers in their clubs, then they would stop litigating it. It’s been litigated over and over. They’re legal. They’re constitutional.”
But Gary Edinger, the attorney representing the club owners, disagrees. Edinger says cards can be legal, but in this case, they’re not because they give the city and the sheriff too much discretion, hence his latest lawsuit.
“So the idea is it’s OK to issue to require a license, but it has to be issued very quickly and it has to be, there has to be no discretion whatsoever involved in the decision,” Edinger said. “So that way, you don’t pick, you know, winners and losers, you don’t pick, the sheriff doesn’t get to pick his favorite entertainers.”
The two sides have been sparring for years, and the cases continue to go in front of a federal judge in Jacksonville.
The two have come to some compromises — like limiting police investigations — but they’re still at odds over the minimum age for a dancer. The city wants that to be 21. Club owners say it should be 18.
“Don’t tell 18-year-olds what they can read or what movies they can go to. We don’t put restrictions on, you know, what candidates they can endorse,” Edinger said. “And so when we’re dealing with the fundamental issue of free speech, people who are 18 years old enjoy the same constitutional rights as a 21-year-old.”
“To me, it’s a very basic thing. Either you want children still in high school dancing in strip clubs, or you don’t, and I don’t,” Cumber said. “And look, the club owners shouldn’t either. They should want to know exactly how old the dancers are. And these cards will protect them from that.”
Cumber says this will cut down on human trafficking, which usually targets younger women. Edinger says trafficking isn’t happening at the businesses he represents — which he contends are operating within the law.
The newest case is set to go back before a federal judge next month.
News4JAX reached out to the mayor’s office, and a spokeswoman said she can’t comment about the case because it’s pending litigation.