LARGO, Md. - A big crackdown on strip clubs is taking place in Prince George’s County. Last week, the county issued cease and desist letters to 12 establishments throughout the county that are known for adult entertainment.
As of Friday, at least three of the 12 businesses will have to permanently shut down because they operate solely as adult entertainment – among them are Fuego, Upscale Ballroom and Club Exstasy.
These closings come more than a year after FOX 5 investigated allegations of sex trafficking at many of these clubs.
Prince George’s County’s Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE) found that these clubs were violating zoning laws established back in 2012.
However, if these establishments also function as a restaurant or banquet hall, the county will allow it to remain in operation only as long as it ceases adult entertainment activities
“They don't have to close at all,” said Gary Cunningham, deputy director for DPIE. “If they are operating as a banquet hall, a restaurant or a lounge, and the [Use and Occupancy] allows them to do that, they can continue to operate as a banquet or lounge.”
But in order to reopen as these types of adult entertainment clubs, the business will have to completely relocate.
“Industrial zones, I-2 Zones, and there are several throughout Prince George’s County, and most of them are more than a thousand feet from residential areas,” said Gary Cunningham, deputy director for DPIE. “The thought is to take adult entertainment away from the community, away from residential areas, away from schools and pretty much isolate them ... We have told them that if you are not operating in one of those areas, you are illegal.”
Cunningham also added, “This is a major victory in an attempt to regulate them. You can talk to the police department and they will tell you that our regulation of a night club and legal establishments in Prince George’s County has significantly helped reduce the crime rate in the county.”
Tina Frundt, a sex trafficking survivor, runs Courtney's House in Washington D.C., a safe haven organization for women who want a way out. In 2015, a FOX 5 Investigation uncovered illicit activities inside several clubs now being forced to shut down. Frundt said clubs like these are a breeding ground for sex traffickers.
Last year, the FOX 5 Investigative Team went inside Irving's and Fuego. Our cameras captured fully nude dancers as well as girls who appeared to be underage stripping and performing lap dances.
“We get a lot of calls from Prince George's County survivors,” said Frundt. “Having the strip clubs shut down permanently will help that. No one else gets involved in anything or hurt in any type of way.”
The county said for every day these establishments operate past the deadline, inspectors will serve violations. If they still continue to open for business, they will padlock the establishment.
All 12 clubs have until Friday at 5 p.m. to comply with the order.