NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A unanimous vote by the New Orleans City Council will prohibit anyone younger than 21 from performing or dancing at a strip club. The council also agreed to seek a one-year moratorium on new strip clubs in the city.
"Those strip clubs say you have to be 21 to drink, that's the federal law. We didn't think that young women 18 years of age should be taking off their clothes at 18, but you had to be 21 to drink," said Jim Kelly, executive director of Covenant House.
Kelly initially lobbied the council to prevent anyone under the age of 21 from working in a strip club, regardless of their position, but the council decided to allow 18- to 20-year olds to work - bartending or waitressing - as long as they don't strip.
"In this particular case, I think we took two steps forward and one back, but now I think we're about to take a huge step even past where we were initially," Kelly said.
Advocates for the strip clubs said the new rules would limit the job market for young adults in need of a way to support themselves.
"There's a real issue in the city with such high unemployment whether it's a smart move to cut off avenues for meaningful employment for young adults. It's an industry that some people philosophically or morally may not want their child to work in, but that's the role of parenting," said Ike Spears, an attorney for the strip clubs.
But people on the street weren't buying that argument, claiming 18 is just too young to strip.
"Eighteen is borderline man, they're kids, they're kids. I think it's fair to push it a little bit, if you want to make a sound decision and go into that business, that's fine, 18 is a little bit too young," said Hussein Harajli, who was walking on Bourbon Street.
That's exactly why Kelly said the ordinance will make more waves in the city as more people talk and learn about what he perceives are issues plaguing the industry.
"No one was talking about under-age dancing, no one was talking about drugs and prostitution, now everyone is talking about it. People are saying, 'hold it I had no idea all this was happening,'" Kelly said.