Strip club owner, dancer call proposed ordinance ‘unfair’

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The owner of a local strip club said a proposal to restrict hours could have a devastating impact on business.

Under Fort Wayne City Councilman Russ Jehl’s (R-2nd) proposal, strip clubs and adult book stores would not be allowed to operate from 12 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Jehl introduced his idea at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The owner of Shangri-La West, Dino Zurzolo, said the proposed ordinance unfairly targets strip clubs. Although adult book stores fall under the umbrella of “sex oriented businesses,” only the strip clubs in Fort Wayne stay open past midnight.

“A lot of these girls have been doing it a long time,” he said. “We have not been in any trouble. We have followed the rules and we have done a great job.”

Zurzolo said he is teaming up with six other strip club owners to fight the proposal. Strip clubs do about 80 percent of their business after midnight, he said. If the ordinance is passed, it could force the clubs to shut down.

“I don’t think they’re thinking of the dancers and the people who work here,” Zurzolo said.

Jehl is concerned that there is a higher number of police calls at strip clubs than any other bars. However, Zurzolo argued the reason there may be more police calls is because the strip clubs have to “police themselves.”

At one time, off-duty officers could work security at strip clubs. Fort Wayne Police Department no longer allows officers to do this, which leaves them no choice but to call police when they need help. Zurzolo said they are doing what is best for the safety of the dancers and the customers.

“What happens to your favorite restaurant next year when they have 300 police calls?” he said. “Do we shut the McDonald’s down because we’re using our resources for what they are supposed to be used for?”

A dancer at Shangri-La West, who asked to remain anonymous, told Newschannel 15 that she would not be able to provide for her family if the club closed at midnight.

“From midnight to 3 I take home a good portion of money,” she said. “Anywhere from $200 to $300. If that was gone, I don’t think it’s possible for me to support my family, my children, or myself for that matter.”

The single mom of two has worked as a dancer for about a year. She cannot afford daycare and said the club gives her an opportunity to balance work while caring for her children during the day.

“It’s not that we enjoy taking off our clothes,” she said. “This is a lifestyle for us. We dance to supply for who we have at home.”

Dozens of people who are against Jehl’s proposal were present at the city council meeting, Tuesday night. Some held signs in opposition.

Council is expected to discuss the proposal Sept. 5.