A new bring-your-own-booze strip club opened in the heart of Omaha on Friday, though city leaders aren’t happy about it.
Lincoln businessman Shane Harrington opened Club Omaha at 7301 Farnam St., at the former home of 20’s Showgirl Night Club. The club will feature nude dancers but won’t have a liquor license, Harrington has said. Patrons must obtain memberships — available at the door — and can bring their own beer, liquor, mixers and food. It’ll operate seven days a week from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.
City officials say there’s not much they can do about the club but they are investigating the matter.
“Because it is private, we are limited in how we can intervene if we could do it at all,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “As of right now we can’t.”
At issue is whether the club requires a liquor license. If it does, restrictions in state and municipal laws include prohibitions on topless and nude dancers in places where alcohol is served.
But Harrington says not serving alcohol and allowing patrons to bring their own drinks means that the establishment doesn’t require a Nebraska liquor license. And because Harrington’s establishments do not apply for licenses through the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, the state regulator has no jurisdiction over them, he says.
Omaha City Attorney Paul Kratz described Harrington’s reasoning as a “loophole” in the state liquor law. And city ordinances don’t restrict establishments further than state liquor law, Kratz said.
“At this point there does not appear to be anything that we can do,” he said. “We are still looking into it and looking into all the various approaches and ramifications to see if there’s anything we can do.”
Stothert said she spoke to city officials in the law, planning and public works department and the business doesn’t need to obtain a permit from the city, but simply needs a certificate of occupancy.
Omaha City Councilman Chris Jerram, who represents the area encompassing the club, said he’s fielded a slew of calls from constituents who oppose the club. He said he’s been speaking with the city and the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission to find a way to push the operation out of Omaha.
“I’m as concerned as the numerous constituents of mine who’ve called to express a number of areas of opposition,” Jerram said Thursday.
City building inspectors told Jerram they didn’t find any major violations in the building. There doesn’t appear to be a way to prevent the club from opening, he said, which is “frustrating.”
“We’ll just have to continue our efforts,” he said.
Harrington operates other strip clubs like this elsewhere in the state. He urged women to attend auditions for “entertainer” positions on his Facebook page Wednesday.
“Opening weekend is going to be PACKED,” he wrote, “so you want to be working!”
Also on Wednesday, Harrington lost a federal lawsuit against Seward County, where he tried unsuccessfully to open a similar club in 2015. According to court documents, Harrington alleged the county intentionally delayed his application, held “secret meetings” on the proposal, and then adopted a new zoning resolution that prevented his club from opening. The court dismissed his suit.
Jerram said he’s been told the city attorney will be briefing the City Council on the matter Tuesday.
World-Herald staff writer Roseann Moring contributed to this report.