A Brief Look at the Constitutionality of Sexually Oriented Businesses in Texas

In September 2008, a judge ordered The Penthouse Club in Houston, Texas to shut down for a year for violating the city’s sexually oriented business law and being found to be a public nuisance. The judge further ordered that The Penthouse Club could never again open as a sexually oriented business. The Penthouse Club reopened in September 2009 when the judge’s order expired. Prior to the closing, the establishment considered itself a bikini bar and not a sexually oriented business since the entertainers wore full bikini bottoms and latex covering on the nipples. However, the entertainers did dance on a stage with a large, anchored pole where tips from the customers were solicited and private dances for customers were performed and contact between the entertainer and customer was expected.  When The Penthouse Club reopened, it did so by marketing itself as a bikini bar with entertainers that wore latex covering and full bikini bottoms. And again, the entertainers danced on stage and performed private dances for the customers.

The Penthouse Club is only one of the approximately 150 businesses in the city of Houston that may be in violation of the city’s sexually oriented business ordinance. And along with these businesses are the thousands of people they employ who are also subject to the city’s ordinances. And this is just Houston, Texas, and just sexually oriented businesses featuring live entertainment. Indeed, sexually oriented businesses are a multi-million dollar industry in Texas and thus critical to the State’s economy.