LINCOLN — State lawmakers reached a tentative compromise Tuesday that would bring some state regulation to currently unregulated bottle clubs, like the strip clubs operated by Omaha businessman Shane Harrington.
But under the amendment, Harrington's "bring your own bottle" clubs could continue to remain open past the normal closing hours for liquor establishments, and could continue to offer nude dancers.
When contacted Tuesday, Shane Harrington, a controversial adult-entertainment entrepreneur from Omaha, said he'll probably still follow through with his threat to sue state lawmakers.
"At least they're getting a little smarter," Harrington said.
The effort to regulate bottle clubs, led by first-year State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha, has ebbed and flowed this year. It was near dead last week, but now appears poised to pass this year.
On Tuesday, a compromise amendment proposed by Thibodeau was attached to another bill by a 34-0 vote. And the sponsor of the other bill, O'Neill Sen. Tyson Larson, said he would be working with the Omaha senator to pass her proposal.
That's an about face for Larson, who had been accused by several senators of not giving Thibodeau's bottle club bill a fair chance to pass this year. Just last week, he had blocked an attempt by the senator to attach her bottle club regulation to another proposal.
But Tuesday was a new day in the Nebraska Legislature, where senators are scrambling to get bills advanced during the final seven days of the 2018 session.
Under Thibodeau's amendment, "bottle clubs" — where members can bring their own liquor or "bottle" to drink — would have to obtain a state bottle club license. That would allow the state and local governments to screen who should have such licenses, and allow law enforcement to enter such clubs to ensure that all liquor rules are being followed, such as making sure no one underage is drinking alcohol.
But Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, as well as others working on the bill, cautioned that such an amendment would not force bottle clubs to follow city ordinances on closing times for bars or prohibitions on totally nude dancing. That's because those city ordinances only apply to places that sell liquor, not to bottle clubs, Krist said. The state liquor commission does not have rules against nude dancing, and allows cities to decide when to end liquor sales at night.
Thibodeau described her amendment as "baby steps" and said she would be talking with Larson about amending the bill further to toughen the language.
Larson declined to comment.
His Legislative Bill 1120, which now includes the compromise bottle club proposal, still needs to pass two more rounds of debate, and would require the governor's signature to become law.
Harrington operates two bottle clubs that offer nude dancing, in Omaha and Hastings. He said he recently sold similar clubs in Grand Island and Elm Creek. Another bottle club, Shakers, in Waverly, Nebraska, also lodged its opposition to Thibodeau's efforts, posting a sign with a swear word about her last week.