St. Helena jurors OK new regulations for strip clubs

The St. Helena Police Jury voted Tuesday to change its code of ordinances to control and regulate sexually oriented businesses and nightclubs in the parish, potentially affecting two notorious strip clubs in the parish.

The changes come after residents have complained about the two clubs — the Oak Ridge Lounge in Pine Grove and The Mansion near Montpelier — and have lobbied to have them shut down.

The Police Jury voted to adopt two changes to the parish code.

The first change amends the chapter that regulates alcohol licenses for local businesses. The change will prohibit nudity and “certain physical contact” between patrons and employees of licensed alcohol-serving businesses.

The second change creates a new chapter to license and regulate “sexually oriented businesses and employees.”

Violation of either ordinance will result in either a maximum 30-day jail sentence or a $500 fine, or both.

The first change was adopted unanimously. The second change passed with a 4-2 vote, with Jurors Warren McCray Jr. and Major Coleman voting against the measure.

The Rev. Richard Sandberg, a pastor from northeastern St. Helena Parish who heads up a group of residents known as the Moral Alliance of St. Helena, expressed gratitude toward the Police Jury for passing the ordinances.

“They have passed ordinances that will protect our legal liability while setting a positive course for our parish’s future,” Sandberg said. “It is our expressed hope that our sheriff will demonstrate the same strength of leadership by consistently enforcing these new policies.”

Tyrone Butler, who owns The Mansion, vented frustration at the Police Jury after the vote before storming out of the meeting room.

“It ain’t over yet, because we’ve got about another three or four years of fighting,” Butler said, referencing plans to take the matter to court. “We’ve got a high judge we’ve got to go to.”

The modifications were drafted by Scott Bergthold, an out-of-state lawyer who specializes in local government oversight of adult entertainment businesses.

The votes, which came in front of a packed house, followed a tense debate about the second of the two ordinances approved.

Coleman raised issues about specific sections of the second ordinance, saying it unfairly targeted the existing strip clubs and would force them to change the way they do business, opening up the Police Jury to lawsuits.

Sandberg said the law applies equally to all clubs, and would therefore protect the Police Jury from any suits.

“If you called him (Bergthold), he would tell you that if you pass a law that treats the same kind of businesses differently, you are opening yourself up for a lawsuit,” Sandberg said.

Under the changes to the law, sexually oriented business and their employees must apply for licenses in order to operate.

All sexually oriented businesses already operating in the parish will be given a 60-day de facto temporary license to apply for a formal license.

The Police Jury has voted numerous times at previous meetings to delay a vote on the proposed ordinances.