Austin City Council works to amend code to prevent strip club from opening on Fifth Street

Jackie Wang

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.”