Rev. Rusty Durand and Rev. Toney Cooksey, pastor of a church in Pine Grove, are encouraging authorities to shut down a new nightclub, “The Mansion.” The establishment is located east of Montpelier and west of the truck stop casinos on La. 16. However, instead of just calling upon the moral grounds of the community, the priests are asking that a recently enacted law be enforced. In 2001, St. Helena Parish enacted a law that forbade nudity in bars that sell alcohol mostly in response to the first strip club opening in the parish the previous year, the “Oak Ridge Lounge.” Oak Ridge challenged the law and appealed to Federal District Court and was victorious in several rulings. However, the case settled in 2005 without a final verdict after the Oak Ridge was granted “grandfather” status and allowed to operate in the parish. However, the law prohibited any further development of new strip clubs. The new law prohibits “’nudity’ by servers, dancers, waitresses and other employees at retail establishments serving alcohol. Under the regulation, ‘nudity’ is defined as the bare buttocks, genitals, anus or any part of the female breast below the top of the areola.” Little appears to be known about The Mansion other than the recent inclusion of a hot tub which was exposed due to construction and that, through online advertisements, they have asked for people to apply for “dancer” positions. Parish attorney Clifton Speed warned to not make swift judgments due to the broad brush which can cover “adult entertainment” and “might mean women dressed provocatively but within the law’s parameters” and cited restaurants such as Hooters as businesses that do this successfully.
However, Police Jury President Thomas Wicker believes the law is quite simple. He sees this ordinance as banning any other strip club in the parish and “probably the wearing of bikinis by employees.”
Another complicating issue in this case is that the building has had many owners but a consistent liquor license since 1997. While it has operated as several names such as “Tallo’s” and “B.J.’s Bar and Grill,” a consistent permit for the structure may offer a possible loophole to be grandfathered in to legality.