A proposed ordinance to limit the business hours of Fort Wayne’s strip clubs was tabled on a 5-4 vote by City Council Tuesday Night.
Second district councilman Russ Jehl proposed the measure, which would force clubs to “soft close;” this means ending dances at midnight but serving alcohol until 3 am.
Jehl argued that “nothing good happens after midnight,” and cited crime increases after midnight at or around the city’s clubs as a reason for the proposal.
Michael Murray is an attorney representing six of Fort Wayne’s eight clubs. He says the ordinance threatened “thousands of jobs and substantial tax revenue.”
“In the nightclub business, people don’t even start going out until 11 o’clock,” Murray said. “So this ordinance would actually devastate or ruin these businesses and the livelihoods of many people.”
If the proposal was successful, Murray stated the clubs would take Fort Wayne to federal court, which he says could cost each party “several hundred thousands of dollars.”
Several members who voted against the ordinance wanted to defeat it instead of tabling it, saying Council should focus more on a widespread problem property ordinance instead of singling out the city’s strip clubs.
Jehl was disappointed in the outcome of the vote.
“It’s our obligation to protect the public from nuisances,” said Jehl. “This was a reasonable step, one that hundreds of communities in multiple states such as Ohio have undertaken. So I’m disappointed we refused to take any action.”
If a measure is "tabled," it can be revisited by Council in the future. Jehl says he's not optimistic that will happen with this proposal.