A Galleria-area strip club embroiled in a legal battle with the City of Houston over what’s considered a restaurant will be allowed to stay open — without dancers.
After being closed for weeks due to Houston’s Stay Home Work Safe order, Club Onyx reopened at 12 am on May 1, only to be raided by police and the fire marshal 15 minutes later. When threatened with arrest, club president Eric Langan opted to close the club for the night. On May 2, Langan sued the city. That set off a series of arguments about Onyx’s operating licenses — was it a bar, a sexually-oriented business, or a restaurant?
Onyx, which bills itself as the nation’s number one hip-hop strip club, serves staples like pasta, burgers, wings and even breakfast dishes. Because less than half the club’s revenue comes from liquor sales, Langan has argued that they should be considered a restaurant and not a bar or sexually-oriented business, and thus allowed to reopen at 25% capacity along with other restaurants on May 1.
Shortly after the raid, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction allowing the club to reopen. On Friday, that same judge clarified that Onyx could only operate as a restaurant, with no entertainers whatsoever.
Onyx management had already taken measures to increase social distancing, including banning lap dances and requiring that all employees wear masks. It also ceased offering nude entertainment — dancers were required to wear bathing suits and performed at a distance from customers.
The club was apparently still busy. Langan told the Houston Chronicle that he had to turn away around 300 patrons on the first weekend in order to maintain distancing, and that customers had been tipping the dancers well.
Under the new court order, Onyx dancers can not perform at all, “even if the entertainers are fully clothed.”