Jerry Rusthoven

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Austin City Council voted unanimously Thursday to pass amendments to the city code that will change the way adult-oriented businesses receive permits to open. 

With the new amendments, adult-oriented businesses, such as strip cubs and pornography shops, now need to be 1,000 feet away from museums and libraries. This is in addition to the current code, which required the businesses to be 1,000 feet away from other adult-oriented businesses. The requirement also applies to day cares, schools, parks and churches. 

Areas of downtown zoned for “mixed use” will also require the businesses go through “conditional use” process, instead of a “permitted use” process, to open.

A permitted use process requires potential businesses to meet certain criteria and be individually approved by the city planning department. A conditional use process requires all those steps as well as a public hearing jointly held between the business and the planning commission.

Planning and Development Review Department staff member Jerry Rusthoven said the changes will be grandfathered in — so adult-oriented businesses already operating, subject to Chapter 245, will not have to obtain new permits.

“This ordinance takes place on April 26,” Rusthoven said. “The mayor made a statement under state law. Adult-oriented businesses are subject to Chapter 245 under local government code. … They’re okay if they are already open.”

Mayor pro tem Kathie Tovo sponsored the resolution and said it was important to address the fact that in certain areas of downtown, strip clubs could open for business without a public hearing. 

Tovo said businesses should have the opportunity to discuss whether adult businesses nearby are appropriate for the area.

“This will not prohibit adult businesses from opening up where zoning categories are appropriate — just have them come in front of council to determine if they are,” Tovo said. “It requires them to [meet] a higher level of review — a public hearing — which means other businesses can come and weigh in, residents, anyone who wants to. Then, the planning commission would make a decision, and it can be appealed to the City Council.”

While the ordinance will not affect already-opened and operating strip clubs, Expose Men’s Club manager Ryan Miller said the new ordinance is bad for Austin’s economy.

“Pretty much all that’s doing is making it more difficult to obtain a [sexually-oriented business] license,” Miller said. “A lot of people don’t agree with this kind of business, but, you know, we produce jobs and probably got 15 employees at this club and then dancers — we probably have a couple hundred. It’s just going to make it more difficult for new clubs to open and pull money out of the Austin area, and people are going to go out of town to open new clubs.”

Individuals who proposed a strip club on Fifth Street and Congress Avenue are still in the permitting process, and they have not gotten their site plan approved yet, Rusthoven said.

Randell Salinas, international relations and global studies alumnus, said because there is already a regular crowd that frequents Sixth Street, close to the proposed Fifth Street and Congress Avenue strip club location, the culture will remain the same even if the strip club isn’t constructed.

“You’re not going to change the type of people that are going to go downtown,” Salinas said. “What’s another bar or club or gentleman’s club?”

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Austin City Council is working to block the construction of a strip club on Fifth Street and Congress Avenue by voting to amend the city code. 

The Austin City Council voted Thursday to begin amending City Code to mandate that “adult-oriented businesses” must be at least 1,000 feet away from cultural services, such as museums or libraries. Current city code only requires a 1,000 feet distance from day cares, schools, churches, parks and other adult-oriented businesses.

Behzad Bahrami, who owns MB & MS Enterprises Inc., filed a site plan application in December to build a strip club on Congress, near the Texas Capitol. Jerry Rusthoven, a staff member in the City Planning Department, said strip clubs fall under the definition of “adult-oriented businesses.”

“The city has specific kinds [of adult-oriented businesses],” Rusthoven said. “Most of them don’t exist anymore because of frankly, the Internet, but we have different adult-oriented businesses — an adult theater, adult novelty shop, adult lounge … Most have gone away but we still have adult lounges, [which are] strip clubs.” 

Rusthoven said the City Planning Department is currently reviewing Bahrami’s application to see if his proposed club would fit all the required criteria to operate as an adult lounge. Under current city code, adult lounges are allowed to operate so long as they meet all criteria, but the Council plans to amend city code to only allow them to operate with the direct approval of the Planning Commission. 

Rusthoven said the City Planning Department is in the process of reviewing Bahrami’s application, and said he does not know if it will be approved before code amendments are put in place.

“If the [strip club] on Congress opens before the code changes, they would be grandfather-ed in,” Rusthoven said. “The question is whether the code gets changed before this application for the strip club on Congress gets approved. If the code changes before the plan is approved, the question is, ‘Would this one still be approved?’ And that’s something that I’d work on with our legal team.”

Randell Salinas, international relations and global studies senior, said he thinks the Council’s concerns regarding the potential strip club’s proximity to a museum — specifically, the Mexic-Arte Museum — are unwarranted.

“I understand the museum and kids going to the museum,” Salinas said. “The kids aren’t going to know what that is. They’re just going to think it’s another bar or club or establishment in the downtown area.”

Molecular biology senior Shane Ali said he thinks the potential of a strip club would significantly change the atmosphere on Congress.

“You’d have people seeking this adult measure,” Ali said. “In that sense, it would be a lot more hyped up. It would also be a distraction for other businesses, because they’d lose a lot of business. It would be tough for businesses, especially independent bars.”

Ali said he believes a strip club close to Sixth Street would draw a larger crowd to Congress Avenue.

“Once they’re sufficiently buzzed, they want to go to something exciting,” Ali said. “A strip club in proximity would be exciting. People go to Yellow Rose and all that, but what’s stopping them is paying for a ride there. And this would be walking distance.”