NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Prostitution, drug sales and lewd or improper acts at five French Quarter strip clubs cost them their liquor and tobacco licenses Tuesday, said Troy Hebert, head of Louisiana's Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.
He said he suspended the licenses pending an administrative hearing at which the clubs can present their cases, but they could stay open without selling alcohol or tobacco.
All five were closed Tuesday afternoon, while business went on at nearby clubs.
Employees contacted at three of the shuttered clubs declined to comment.
The bright red door at the Dixie Divas club cracked open at a knock and slammed shut at the words, "I'm a reporter."
As three people left Lipstixx, a man who said he was the manager but would not give his name said any comment would have to come from corporate headquarters. He would not give that phone number.
At Larry Flynt's Hustler Barely Legal Club, on the same block of Bourbon Street as three of the closed clubs, scantily clad young women took turns chatting with tourists at the wide open door. Day manager Bret Esteves, a shirt under his knee-length white, orange and yellow tunic, said he just had one question: "Why would they wait till now to do this when they've known those places were like that for a long time?"
Hebert said all three alleged activities occurred at each of the five clubs during a monthlong undercover investigation he called Operation Trick or Treat. "No pun intended," he said. The investigation began with tips forwarded by city police, Hebert said.
He said he is still investigating five to seven additional strip clubs and bars.
Examples of lewd or immoral acts, he said, include "bottomless women with zero clothes on."
"Women come up to customers and there's a lot of touching — inappropriate touching."
Col. Mike Edmonson, head of Louisiana State Police, said the state police lab checked confiscated drugs for Hebert's office. "They were indeed drugs," he said.
Edmonson said he will go over the allegations with city police and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro to determine possible criminal charges.
Cannizzaro welcomed news of the investigation, Edmonson said.
He said state police have been independently investigating allegations of human trafficking with New Orleans police and the FBI, and have made some arrests. That investigation is continuing, he said.