Lawsuit filed over strip club site reopening

Aaron E. Looney

A Gonzales couple has filed a lawsuit in 23rd Judicial District Court over the issuance by parish government of a new business permit for a strip club currently under renovation and new ownership.

The suit looks to void the permit and stop a new tenant from opening a strip club at the site of the former Escapades strip club, located at 17376 Airline Hwy. in Prairieville.

Kathryn and Lou Goppelt filed the suit earlier this week, claiming that the license should be declared null and void because of an ordinance that prevents the opening of strip clubs or similar businesses within a certain distance from certain structures.

Attorney Jean-Paul Robert represents the Goppelts in the case.

Parish Council Chairman Pat Bell is named as the defendant in the suit, as he signed the permit after receiving it from the Ascension Parish Sales and Use Tax Authority.

Escapades, which closed in the early summer, was later sold.

Theron Ladner Enterprises Inc., held the previous license for the site, with the club being operated by Be Van Tran of Gonzales.

The new license in question was issued to Sandra Barton, owner and operator of S. Barton Enterprises LLC, doing business in the agreement as Silhouette.

The suit claims that parish government ignored an ordinance regarding sexually oriented businesses, or SOBs, by allowing a new license to be issued for a new business.

According to the ordinance, passed in 2003, any SOB must be located 3,000 feet from structures such as churches, day care centers, libraries or schools. The building is currently located about 800 feet from a day care center.

Parish Attorney O’Neil Parenton, who handles legal issues regarding zoning matters for the parish, said that Escapades was grandfathered into the parish zoning maps because it existed prior to the parish adopting the SOB ordinance.

Parenton also said that parish zoning ordinances allow the site the right to reopen as a strip club because Escapades closed for less that 180 days and was not considered to be abandoned. If it had been closed for 180 days or more, Parenton said, it would not be able to operate as a strip club because it would then not comply with zoning regulations for the area.

Bell said Wednesday that he is obligated by law to sign the permit if there are no issues brought to light by a legal review and a background check conducted by the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office during the permit application process.

The former Escapades club owners could not be contacted for comment.