New York City, NY

New York City Strip Clubs Suing Governor Cuomo Over COVID Closures

Sulabh Gupta

New York City, NY - An already bad year just got worse for Governor Cuomo. Amidst the harassment allegations and demand for his resignation due to the misrepresentation of COVID numbers, a lawsuit from several New York City strip clubs is the latest bump in the road for the Governor.

Four New York City strip clubs are suing Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Liquor Authority arguing about the unreasonable treatment of their establishments during the recent reopenings of several types of businesses. The clubs maintain that while businesses like Axe-throwing venues, live casinos, and bars are allowed to open, it is unfair that the strip clubs are not allowed to reopen.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in the Manhattan federal court by exotic dancing clubs including “Starlet’s,” “Sugar Daddy’s” and “Gallagher’s 2000”. The lawsuit claimed that thousands of people that worked at these establishments are forced out of work due to the state's ban. The strip clubs asked the court that keeping their clubs closed is a violation of the first and 14th amendments while other businesses are allowed to reopen. According to the lawsuit, at least 41 other states allow similar businesses to reopen whereas strip clubs in New York City have been shut down since March last year.

"The exotic dancing venue shutdown has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs for hard-working New Yorkers across the State and threatens to jeopardize Plaintiffs’ market share and the long term economic viability of Plaintiffs’ business," states the 19-page lawsuit.

"The state has “never publicly explained how restaurants and bars with exotic dancing venues are meaningfully different from nightclubs, lounges, restaurants and bars with live music, SNL, movie theaters, axe throwing venues, wedding venues, casinos, churches, video lottery gaming facilities, bowling alleys, billiard halls, film houses, gyms, and fitness centers in the context of COVID-19."

The suit states that the four strip clubs as "elegant", "luxurious", and "world-renowned" and coronavirus-related closures are threatening all that. The strip clubs "have been ready to open and become a leader in COVID-19 safety since the early days of the pandemic." The venues are prepared to modify venue layouts, installation of hand sanitizers, and "frequent cleaning of all surfaces throughout the day by dedicated staff."

“The exotic dancing venue shutdown has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs for hard-working New Yorkers across the State, and threatens the long-term economic viability of Plaintiffs’ business, all without cause,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit comes a couple of weeks after the ruling from a judge that the Federal Paycheck Protection Program bars such establishments from getting a COVID relief loan. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a bank that denied the loan application of a Buffalo-area strip club was correct according to the Federal Paycheck Protection Program rules. According to a report by Buffalo news, Pharaoh’s Gentlemen's club was seeking a loan of $350,000 to pay 76 of its employees. The strip club appealed to the 2nd circuit after its bid for an injunction when the bank rejected its loan was denied by a judge. The lawyers for Pharoah's strip club argued that these restrictions unconstitutionally target businesses that engage in such activities.

According to Newsday, a similar lawsuit was filed last June by a strip club from Long Island but it was dismissed at the time. However, since then several businesses that operate in enclosed places have been allowed to reopen. In recent weeks, the city announced that large sports establishments like the Madison Square Garden can reopen, movie theatres were allowed to open recently as well with some restrictions. Furthermore, comedy clubs, nightclubs, and Broadway theatres are expected to reopen in April. Governor Cuomo announced on Wednesday that he would allow indoor gym classes.

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