The owner of a controversial Omaha strip club wants to open a go-go bar next door, and has applied for a liquor license in hopes of achieving peace with the city.
Shane Harrington plans to purchase Rehab Lounge at 120th Street and West Center Road and license it as a Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club. It would feature women dancing in bikinis, food, keno and — pending the City Council’s decision Tuesday — alcohol.
Harrington has been in conflict with the city since he brought his business model of a membership-only, bring-your-own-booze nude dancing club, called Club Omaha, to the city in 2017.
Tensions peaked in March, when Harrington filed a federal lawsuit against the city, declared “war” and pledged to be “the biggest pain in the a--” when Omaha police ticketed three of his employees on suspicion of allowing alcohol consumption without a license.
And last summer, Harrington and nearly nude dancers held signs on 72nd and Dodge Streets to protest a state law requiring bottle clubs to obtain liquor licenses. Harrington thinks Club Omaha is a private club and doesn’t meet the “public place” requirements of the bottle club law, while the city maintains it is a bottle club.
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There are federal lawsuits pending on that issue. As of now, Harrington still operates his Club Omaha, now at 2607 S. 120th St., as a bring-your-own-booze establishment.
But in an interview Thursday, Harrington said that if he secures a liquor license for the new club, named Club 120 Inc. until he gets the Hustler contract, he wouldn’t allow any liquor at Club Omaha.
He is optimistic that he and the city could co-exist. He said he would drop the lawsuits, prevent future scantily-clad protests and focus his energy on his business, not feuding with the city.
“If we keep fighting like this, there will be lawsuits for the next four to five years possibly,” he said. “We don’t want to sue, we just want to be able to stay open with the rules that we first had when we came in to Omaha.”
If Club 120 Inc. is able to secure a liquor license, patrons would purchase and drink alcohol there, which is next door to Club Omaha. Harrington said there is a doorway between the two business bays.
In his business plan, Harrington describes Club 120 Inc. as “the ultimate refined nightlife experience” that will cater to professionals 35 and older and operate from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Harrington said he would take over Rehab Lounge on Nov. 1 and plan to open Club 120 Inc. on Dec. 1.
Club Omaha would remain a members-only spot and feature nude dancing until 5 a.m. Harrington said he has had 25,000 members in his three clubs across Nebraska the past four years, so his business fills a need in the community.
Harrington’s lawyer has been in communication with city attorneys about the liquor license application.
Assistant City Attorney Will Acosta-Trejo said the city has talked with Harrington’s lawyer about the business plan to understand the proposal, but nothing has been agreed upon.
While city ordinance bans nude dancing in liquor establishments, Acosta-Trejo said there wouldn’t be anything illegal about having a bar sell alcohol next to another business with nude dancing.
“If it’s licensed, there will be drinks on the one side. At the other place, no liquor license and no liquor issues,” Acosta-Trejo said. “There would be no prohibition against that.”
Acosta-Trejo agreed that the lawsuits might be moot if Club 120 Inc. gets a liquor license and Harrington stops allowing alcohol in Club Omaha.
“On the face, this (liquor license) application does not appear to have any issues,” Acosta-Trejo said. “There will be a lot of questions that still need to be answered on Tuesday.”