Rumors are circulating this week that a strip club is heading to downtown Austin, sparking a flurry of conjecture and public concern.
Local news outlets including FOX 7 and KXAN are reporting that a space at 422 Congress Ave. may soon be the home of a strip club. The multi-story building at the intersection of Congress Avenue and Fifth Street currently houses Lanai, Shiner's Saloon and Geisha Room.
Although a lot speculation has been brewing, media attention so far has focused heavily on reactions from nearby shop-owners and city-dwellers, only touching on the actual potential for a strip club in the Congress corridor. Before you get your panties in a twist (pun intended), let's look at what we know right now.
Who's the applicant?
A site plan application for an adult-oriented business at 422 Congress Ave. was filed on December 31, 2014 with the City of Austin. The application was submitted by Aus-Tex Building Consultants on behalf of Behzad Bahrami. Bahrami is the owner of MB & MS Enterprises Inc. and is also connected to Show Place Commercial Park. Attempts by CultureMap to contact the applicant have not been returned.
FOX 7 reports that the applicant (whom they do not identify by name) is the previous owner of Down in Texas Saloon in Round Rock, a strip club with barbecue, backyard games and, of course, topless women. The club was recently sold to Rick's Cabaret.
What exactly is an adult-oriented business?
As defined by the city's Code of Ordinances, an adult-oriented business encompasses everything from an adult bookstore to a novelty shop to an adult lounge, which is defined as "live entertainment that emphasizes specified sexual activities or specified anatomical areas." Language in the site plan for the proposed adult-oriented business uses only the term "nightclub" to describe its intended use.
Any business that is classified as adult-oriented is sexual in nature or involves exposed anatomical parts. A "breastaurant" like the Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill chain, which is overrun with scantily clad woman, doesn't cross into adult-oriented territory.
Can an adult-oriented business exist downtown?
The Land Development Code says that an adult lounge or any other adult-oriented business is permitted in the Central Business District where 422 Congress Ave. is located. However, the code goes on to specify that adult-oriented businesses cannot be located within "1,000 feet of a church, school, public park, public playground, licensed daycare or a lot where another adult-oriented business is located."
The now-closed La Bare on Riverside Drive, for example, flirted with the line between being an establishment like Bikinis or a full-fledged adult-oriented business. La Bare eventually shut down after the City of Austin determined that it was, indeed, an adult-oriented business and that it was too close to Texas School for the Deaf and the Lady Bird Lake trail.
FOX 7 has raised concerns over the proposed business' proximity to the Mexic-Arte Museum, Republic Square Park and other venues both public and private that host children's programs, citing concerns from Austin residents and shop owners.
What happens next?
Before anything can more forward, the application must be reviewed by the Land Use Commission. The City of Austin will determine whether or not 422 Congress Ave. falls into the appropriate zoning districts and adheres to the adult-oriented business codes. This process typically includes a public hearing, for which no date has been set.
The applicants must still jump through many hoops — and face the public — before any proposed adult-oriented business becomes a reality on Congress Avenue.