Ruling for strip club puts big dent in Miami-Dade curfew
A Miami-Dade judge ruled the Tootsie’s strip club could stay open past midnight, declaring an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis preempted Mayor Carlos Gimenez from enforcing his curfew.
A Miami-Dade judge ruled a strip club can keep its dancers earning money past midnight and ignore the curfew imposed three months ago by Mayor Carlos Gimenez as a measure against the spread of COVID-19.
The win by Tootsie’s in Miami Gardens for now only applies to that establishment, but the club’s lawyers say the ruling likely spells the end of the Gimenez-imposed curfew unless the county wins its appeal.
Judge Beatrice Butchko issued an order Friday allowing Tootsie’s to operate all night, saying a statewide decree by Gov. Ron DeSantis limiting local COVID business restrictions left the county unable to keep the club closed overnight. While it allowed counties and cities to set capacity limits for restaurants, the governor’s
Sept. 25 order prohibits local governments from issuing COVID rules that keep people from working.
The DeSantis “preemption necessarily includes curfews which, by their terms, prevent businesses from operating and further have the effect of reducing their capacity to zero,” Butchko wrote.
Sports radio host Andy Slater first reported on the Tootsie’s suit.
The Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Miami-Dade is appealing the ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal, but the Butchko injunction remains in place for now, Tootsie’s lawyers said.
Gimenez imposed the curfew in July as a way to crack down on late-night socializing, both at bars and in private homes. Originally set at 10 p.m., it drew instant fire from restaurants, which complained the measure ruined their nighttime business by forcing
customers to get home early.
Daniel Aaronson, one of Tootsie’s lawyers, said Butchko’s conclusion will invite other businesses to make the same challenge. “Obviously, the writing is on the wall that it should not be enforced,” he said of the countywide curfew.
James Benjamin, another lawyer on the Tootsie’s case, said Tootsie’s stopped following the curfew after the DeSantis order and a manager was cited by county police for staying open. He said Butchko’s order means the end of overnight workers at Tootsie’s having to give up their earnings.
“All of the entertainers, the bus boys, the cooks, the bartenders, the valet people,” he said. “There’s a boatload of people who are going to have their jobs now that didn’t have their jobs a couple of nights ago.”
The suit included a $500 county citation for a Tootsie’s manager, who apparently defied an order to close down after midnight on Wednesday, Oct. 7. The officer noted on the ticket that county lawyers were contacted. An email hours later to Aaronson from Janet Lewis, commander of the Miami-Dade Police Department’s legal bureau, said if Tootsie’s violates the curfew again “arrests will be made.”
Along with attacking the county’s COVID curfew, the lawsuit proffered something of a mission statement for Tootsie’s.
“Plaintiffs maintain that the human body is a thing of beauty which, when combined with music and rhythmic motion in the form of dance, conveys an important message of eroticism,” the Tootsie’s lawyers wrote. “Plaintiffs believe that providing this form of expressive communication to the public is a beneficial social activity which enhance individuals’ conscious ability [to consider] various issues involving sexual candor...”
The suit likened erotic dancing to speech, protected by the First Amendment and said the curfew denied patrons their right “to enjoy the exotic dance entertainment for which Tootsie’s is famous.”
Tootsie’s in Miami Gardens