Omaha declared a truce Tuesday with a longtime adversary — adult entertainment business owner Shane Harrington. The city did so by recommending approval of his liquor license.
In return, Harrington agreed to steer patrons of his west Omaha strip club to the bar he plans to open next door. He also pledged not to let booze into his original club with nude exotic dancers.
Before voting, members of the City Council checked with the city’s Law Department to verify that it recommended approval of the application, with changes.
Both City Attorney Paul Kratz and City Prosecutor Matt Kuhse explained that granting Harrington a liquor license would increase the city’s ability to enforce the law at Harrington’s businesses.
The City Council, in a 6-0 vote, then recommended that the state grant a liquor license to Harrington’s planned go-go club with bikini-clad dancers at 120th and West Center Road.
Nobody testified against the application.
Harrington plans to locate the new Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in the neighboring bay of the strip mall that houses Club Omaha, his members-only, fully nude strip club.
He said he’s in the process of buying the bar next to Club Omaha, Rehab Lounge, to renovate it into the go-go club. He said he would like to buy the entire strip mall.
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The vote put council members Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding, Republicans who represent parts of west Omaha on the officially nonpartisan council, in the uncomfortable position of recommending approval.
They secured conditions that would keep alcohol out of Club Omaha and allow police into that venue to check if alcohol was being brought inside.
The council also persuaded Harrington to pursue a traditional liquor license, instead of one that would allow him to host outdoor events, and he pledged that workers would be wearing at least a bikini if they stepped outside.
Club Omaha and the planned Hustler Club would share an internal door, and he agreed Tuesday that it would be used only by employees, not patrons.
Melton said working with Harrington, no matter how distasteful, was safer for customers and dancers and other employees than continuing the status quo.
“This is better than the alternative where we don’t have a lot of control,” she said.
Harding said it became clear that a liquor license was the best option, “a hammer” to help the city make sure that what is happening at both clubs is above board and legal.
Harrington said that if the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission approves his liquor license application, he would drop his lawsuits against the city regarding his private bottle club.
Tuesday’s vote could mark the beginning of the end of a years-long fight with the city that culminated last summer in a nearly nude protest near 72nd and Dodge Streets.
Harrington said he knows that his application could still face scrutiny by the Liquor Commission, but he’s hopeful that the public fight is almost done.
His ultimate aim: return to relative anonymity.
“I am smiling right now, but I’m trying not to get too excited yet,” he said. “I’ve been close before.”