NEW ORLEANS — Investigators found evidence of prostitution, drug sales or what they described as lewd acts at several French Quarter strip clubs raided in the past two weeks, authorities said Monday.
Prostitution was seen at most of the eight clubs raided on or near Bourbon Street, and drug sales at four of them, said Juana Lombard, head of Louisiana’s Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison. They spoke at a news conference that was livestreamed online.
Harrison said the investigation’s target was not prostitutes but human traffickers. He said few arrests have been made and none for human trafficking, but the investigation is continuing and “there are more arrests that are still coming.”
“The party atmosphere and the culture of Bourbon Street is harmed when businesses and criminals take advantage of the environment to engage in illegal activities, such as the sale of narcotics or solicitation for prostitution in a human trafficking effort,” Harrison said.
Seven of the clubs either did not answer their phones or immediately respond to messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment. At the eighth, a man who did not give his name said only that it had “no comment.”
Four of the clubs closed after Alcohol and Tobacco Control suspended their liquor licenses; the others are open but not selling liquor, NOLA.com ‘ The Times-Picayune reported earlier.
Lombard said her agency has scheduled hearings Feb. 1 and Feb. 6 to determine if the clubs receive their licenses back.
“Some of these clubs are repeat offenders while others are first-offense … They won’t all have the same penalty,” she said
Lombard also said, “We have no issues with dancers — anyone that is legally dancing in a club.”
Harrison said the investigation and raids were a response to complaints “from legitimate businesses, from citizens who want to have a good time in New Orleans but don’t want to be faced with people wanting to sell drugs to them or offering prostitution.”
New Orleans is beginning the Carnival season leading up to Mardi Gras on Feb. 13, but Harrison said the raids were not timed for the season.
“It has nothing to do with what time of year it is. It has everything to do with the fact that a person or entity or persons committed a crime,” he said.