The masks were new and the patrons few, but an Omaha strip club made it one night without intervention from police or health officials when it reopened Thursday.
But Friday night, police stopped by Club Omaha.
Officers arrived to carry out a compliance check at the club about 9:30 p.m., but owner Shane Harrington said they left without issuing a citation.
Harrington said the compliance check didn’t deter him from staying open.
Seventeen club members stopped by for the reopening of the club, near 120th Street and West Center Road, between 8 p.m. and midnight Thursday. The dancers wore masks while performing.
Patrons were required to wear masks and sign a form saying they did not have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and had not been in contact with anyone who tested positive for it.
“I had to tell the girls that there’s a possibility that the police will come, I’ll get ticketed and we might have to shut down,” owner Shane Harrington said.
He was cited April 3 by Omaha police on suspicion of violating a Douglas County health order that required a 6-foot distance between customers and dancers.
Omaha City Prosecutor Matt Kuhse said police will be conducting compliance checks at businesses suspected of violating directed health measures. Omaha police said someone filed a request for a compliance check at Club Omaha on Thursday, but the check wasn’t made that night.
“I know Club Omaha has the impression that they’re being singled out by law enforcement in the city of Omaha,” Kuhse said. “I’ve seen some statements and reporting in the media from Club Omaha’s owner that no one else has gotten tickets for violating these directed health measures in Omaha. I know that’s not true.”
Harrington decided to reopen based on his reading of the state’s health directive, which says that “in order to mitigate COVID-19 related food disruption, food and beverage sales at restaurants, bars, taverns, private clubs and any dine-in establishments are allowed” starting May 4 as long as the businesses don’t exceed 50% capacity.
The club doesn’t serve food or alcohol, but Harrington considers it a private membership club.
Kuhse said Club Omaha “certainly meets the commonly understood definition of a gentleman’s club,” a business category that the governor has ordered to remain closed until May 31.
Jasmine Vasquez has worked at Club Omaha for six months. She said she’s excited to be back at work.
“People don’t see us as real people. They just think that we will spread the coronavirus,” she said. “It was tough. I haven’t gotten any money from anybody. It kind of put my life on a complete pause.”