Fantasy Plaza, a north Houston strip club, is filing a federal antitrust lawsuit against the city of Houston for a 2013 agreement with sixteen other area strip clubs.
In the suit filed Thursday, the strip club alleges the agreement is a “bribery scheme” favoring their competitors.
The agreement stems from a law enacted by the Houston City Council in 1997, which stated that topless strippers could not get within three feet of customers — making it hard for dancers to perform lap dances.
A battle over the law raged for over a decade before the city and sixteen local strip clubs reached a landmark deal allowing the return of lap dances in exchange for the clubs donating to a fund to fight human trafficking.
As part of the agreement, the sixteen clubs are also exempt from paying a $5 per lap dance tax, which is collected from patrons.
The clubs also agreed to eliminate VIP rooms, which the city said were intended to foster criminal activity.
In that agreement, the city admitted the arrangement allows them to pursue “rogue clubs.”
“Establishing a working relationship with these 16 clubs will assist law enforcement in reducing criminal activity, help us combat human trafficking and, hopefully, allow us to focus police resources on the rogue clubs that have opened up more recently,” said then-Mayor Anise Parker, as reported by the Houston Chronicle in 2013.
Fantasy Plaza is using that terminology in its suit to argue the city is trying to put clubs who aren’t part of the agreement out of business.
“City officials have characterized the clubs that were not part of the settlement as ‘rogue clubs’ that needed to be shut down,” the club says in their lawsuit.
Fantasy Plaza plans to argue in court that the agreement essentially allows their competitors to pay “bribes” to the Houston Police Department trafficking fund in exchange for not having laws enforced.
“Because Fantasy Plaza must abide by city law, Fantasy Plaza cannot compete for customers in the same manner as the Clubs. This has caused-and will continue to cause, Fantasy Plaza to lose business and ultimately fail,” says their complaint.
The club wants damages and a permanent injunction.