Hey, I’m a local. That means the last time I went to Bourbon Street to an “adult-oriented” venue (a euphemism for a strip club) was quite a while ago, and it was probably with someone from out of town.
That’s the way it is. Locals have a hard time making it down to Bourbon Street, for the most part.
But there’s no denying that strippers and lap dancing emporiums on Bourbon Street are a major attraction for some visitors (I would hope they want to experience the music on the street, but I think I know better). It’s about the party, the drinking that’s allowed 24 hours a day, the ability to see pretty near-naked ladies (and some men). The “wild-and-crazy-anything atmosphere on Bourbon.” I get it.
Not my bag, but it’s a big attraction in New Orleans. The biggest, probably.
The city cracked down on eight adult entertainment venues in the last couple of weeks, pulling their liquor licenses. The ladies who dance in these clubs and who are the prime attraction in the clubs basically lost their jobs and (apparently, very) lucrative sources of income. Which means there are a hundred young women who are now unemployed and who are out on the street.
The city’s main reason for curbing this vice was to cut down on human trafficking that was supposedly taking places in these clubs.
The dancers organized (good for them), and actually seemed to make a difference. One of the performers, Lyn Archer, wrote a very good editorial in today’s Times-Picayune. She makes a lot of good points. Applause to these young ladies for standing up for themselves.
NOTE: If you are very religious, and/or squeamish about sex, scantily-clad dancers, or marijuana, you should stop reading now.
My opinion (not necessarily shared by other staff at OffBeat, or by my friends and relatives) is this: There is, was and always will be a market for performances or other (ahem) services that are sexually-oriented or -stimulating. Always. That’s never going to end, no matter how much we condemn it, prohibit it or try to prevent it. I’ve believed for some time that not only dancing should be legal, but prostitution. New Orleans did away with the Storyville District in 1917. It was a 20-year experiment, created by the city, and it legalized a red-light district in New Orleans to regulate prostitution and drugs (altering consciousness is also something that’s been practiced by humans since they discovered how it could be accomplished, for which there is also an ongoing demand that will never end, either. Right now, it’s satisfied by free and easy liquor).
Not too long after Hurricane Katrina almost destroyed this city, and we were wondering what the hell we were going to do to get back on our feet, I publicly promoted the idea of legalizing marijuana and prostitution in New Orleans. Hey, it was an idea whose time had come (again), but, of course, I caught some laughs for the suggestion.
(From Gambit’s Alison Fensterstock in 2009:
“In the issue of Offbeat magazine’s [sic] Weekly Beat e-newsletter that went out today, Editor-in-Chief Jan Ramsey suggested a novel method for New Orleans to jump-start its economy: following Amsterdam’s example, the city should legalize marijuana and reintroduce a prostitution district.
‘I also have the solution to solving New Orleans’ economic problems now and forever: let’s make it the Amsterdam of the U.S.
First, decriminalize marijuana use (oh the horror of Michael Phelps getting caught hitting a bong!!) and confine it to “coffee houses” in specific areas of the city; and second, re-create Storyville with taxed, legalized, controlled, clean prostitution. No more Canal Street madams or martyrs for David Vitter!
I can hear the screaming and outraged yelling now. But have you ever been to Amsterdam?
Think about it.’
It might not be such a bad idea at that. Any suggestions as to who would be best suited to head up the new Mayor’s Office of Weed and Hoes?”
Funny, yes, then and now, but I stand by that recommendation today. If we can drink ’til we drop and vomit alcoholically on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, have some lissome lovelies tempt us with their bodies in strip clubs, then what is so radically different about allowing and regulating prostitution and making marijuana available for those who want to use it, and taxing the hell out of it? Regulate it, tax it. But make it legal!
I say, bring back the Storyville District (sans guns, if you please). We’d have infinitely more money to repair our infrastructure, educate our kids, decrease violence and squelch a lot of the drug trade. Right now Bourbon Street is our de facto Storyville—but with no real “teeth.” If visitors want to patronize it—and they most assuredly will—we’ll build a better overall New Orleans.