Dance club

San Antonio exotic dance club XTC Cabaret defies court orders by keeping doors open

No power. No water. No problem?

XTC Cabaret has pulled out all the stops to ensure the show’s continuity after the City of San Antonio revoked the North Side Exotic Dance Club’s certificate of occupancy in November for alleged criminal activity and COVID-19 violations.

The city also ordered XTC to vacate the property at 2023 Sable Lane.

Both sides took their battle to court, filing lawsuits less than an hour apart in December. But XTC wavered in its legal efforts to quickly recover its certificate of occupancy and reopen its doors.

So XTC officials took matters into their own hands by reopening two weeks ago without the required document.

City retaliated by cutting off power to the club on 2 March. Not to be discouraged, XTC reopened a few days later with the help of an “illegal generator” to power the club, the city says in a court filing.

The back and forth did not stop there.

Last Saturday, the city shut off the water to the club. XTC got around that by installing portable toilets, according to the city.

“This is my 15th year here in San Antonio doing this,” said Assistant City Attorney Savita Rai, who opposed XTC in court. “I have never dealt with a company or a group of lawyers who have so blatantly ignored the law.”

Casey Wallace, a Houston attorney for XTC, did not respond to a request for comment.

In a court filing on Tuesday, the city called XTC a “bad actor.” The filing was in response to XTC’s latest attempt to get its certificate of occupancy restored.

XTC claims City’s actions have caused the club “irreparable harm” and has asked State District Judge Norma Gonzales to grant a temporary restraining order.

The judge, however, denied XTC’s request without explanation in a written order on Tuesday.

It was the fifth time that XTC had unsuccessfully sought court permission to reopen.

Still, XTC continues to work. The club was open as recently as Thursday night, Rai said.

“They are openly challenging three state judges and one federal judge, all of whom have said the certificate of occupancy remains revoked while their lawsuits” are ongoing, she said. Businesses, by law, are not allowed to operate without a certificate of occupancy.

“The #1 Strip Club”

The city has had a long-running beef with XTC, part of Houston-based RCI Hospitality Holdings Inc.’s adult entertainment empire. XTC advertises itself as “San Antonio’s #1 strip club” on its Facebook page.

The city has described the club as a haunt of criminal activity – with everything from prostitution to assaults with deadly weapons to drug dealing allegedly taking place there. Police have responded to the club more than 300 times in the past two years, according to the city.

In revoking XTC’s certificate of occupancy, the city cited various violations of ordinances meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 last year. They included face mask violations and failure to practice social distancing.

The club called the city’s decision to enforce COVID-19 restrictions a “pretext” to shut it down.

XTC says it’s a “BYOB establishment,” where patrons bring their own alcohol, not a bar. That allowed it to stay open when Governor Greg Abbott issued orders last year for bars due to the pandemic. It remained open until the city revoked the certificate of occupancy on November 24.

The city’s Department of Developmental Services had declared XTC a threat to public safety and revoked its certificate of occupancy.

Commercial lawsuits

XTC and the city have traded five lawsuits since December. The litigation proceeded in state district court, a state appeals court and a federal court. Almost all of that has worked in the city’s favor so far.

XTC first sued the city on December 7, but state district judge Laura Salinas declined to rule for the club in an initial hearing. She said XTC must appear before the city’s Board of Adjustment before seeking emergency court assistance.

The club went to the board, which handles action appeals from city agencies, in January.

The Board of Adjustment denied XTC’s appeal and upheld the revocation by a vote of 8 to 3.

XTC then filed its second lawsuit on January 20 in San Antonio State District Court, again seeking its restored certificate of occupancy.

On February 10, despite the second lawsuit, Rai said that XTC had appealed the dismissal of its first lawsuit to the 4th Court of Appeal. XTC asked the appeals court for emergency help to reopen the club, but the court rejected the request on February 25.

XTC reopens

On the same day, Wallace, XTC’s lawyer, told Rai that the club intended to reopen, she said.

“I advised…if they did, they would be operating illegally,” Rai said. “He started threatening to take legal action against every city official…if we tried to enforce the law.”

Rai asked for a copy of an “alleged order” allowing the club to reopen that Wallace said he had. But she said he refused to provide it. He also did not name the judge who supposedly issued it.

That night, Rai and other city officials went to XTC. There, Wallace attempted to portray “the judge’s notes as a court order,” she said.

“The judge’s notes are not a court order,” Rai said. “There is no court order allowing them to operate.”

On the way to federal court

On March 2, the city cut power to XTC. The same day, the club sued the city in federal court in San Antonio, along with Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Director of Development Services Michael Shannon and three others.

In the complaint, XTC says it learned from the judge’s notes that it prevailed on a temporary injunction. For this reason, he said, he chose to reopen the club.

He added that San Antonio police officers and Developmental Services officials “invaded the business and loitered threateningly outside.”

In its lawsuit, XTC asked U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam to order the city to reconnect the club’s electricity and allow it to reopen.

Pulliam rejected XTC’s request, issuing an order at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 5, Rai said.

Less than 20 minutes later, the city sued XTC in state district court for allegedly continuing to violate city ordinances.

Within two hours of Pulliam’s order, Rai said, a truck stopped at XTC with a generator to supply electricity to the club.

The city shut off the water to XTC the next day.

“I was told they brought Porta Potties, but I haven’t seen any photos to confirm that,” Rai said.

The City Trial

Both parties could be back in court as early as Monday.

Until the hearing is held, the city has ordered XTC not to reopen. The club refused, however, Rai said.

So far, the city has issued citations against XTC for every day it operates without a certificate of occupancy and for violating notice to leave the property. The club has operated for about 10 days since reopening on Feb. 25, Rai said.

The quotes, however, had no effect.

“Their answer is: ‘We will pay the fine. We will continue to operate,” she said.

The fine for an occupancy violation certificate is $500 per day, while failure to comply with the evacuation notice results in a fine of up to $2,000 per day.

In its lawsuit, the city seeks civil penalties of $1,000 a day for each time XTC continues to violate an ordinance after being notified.

The city also wants the court to issue a permanent injunction shutting down the club and locking down the property for a year.

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