After overnight raid, Club Onyx wins temporary restraining order against city, allowing reopening

Houston strip club reopens hours after being forced to closed

HOUSTON – The owner of Club Onyx, a strip club that tried to reopen as a restaurant in the early hours of Friday morning, filed for and won a temporary restraining order against the city of Houston to prevent another shutdown.

The club reopened for just minutes Friday morning before the Houston Police Department and the Fire Marshal’s Office raided the club and shut down the reopening.

The restraining order claims the shut down was a violation “of the First and Fourth Amendment protections against unconstitutional searches and seizures.”

“In all ways, Onyx Houston both qualified as a Reopened Service and complied with the requirements and recommendations of Governor Abbott’s Order,” the club owner wrote in the document filed in court. “Nonetheless, before Onyx Houston has been open even an hour, dozens of Houston Police Department officers and Fire Department officials raided the business.”

Eric Langan, 52, the club’s owner, said he opened his first club in Fort Worth in 1989.

“I went to jail 13 times in three weeks,” Langan told KPRC 2 Friday. Now, more than three decades later, Langan says he is prepared to go to jail again if he needs to because he insists he has the right permits to reopen.

"I've worked here for over a year and this is basically like my second family," said waitress Zahra Conteh.

Conteh is in college pursuing a degree in computer engineering and technology -- paying her own way. Conteh says this job is how she pays for it.

“Working here, a lot of people, especially my customers, they always look out for me because they know that I study really hard,” Conteh said.

Langan said customers and employees will be safe with workers wearing gloves and masks and through the practice of safe social distancing. He just can't understand the city's opposition.

"Why are you punishing people who want to go to work? Who are following your rules," Langan asked? "How am I any less safe here than I am at Walmart, or HEB, or Sam's?"

Langan will have to return to court for another hearing, possibly next week, to see if he’ll be allowed to remain open.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said before the coronavirus pandemic, Club Onyx primarily operated as a “sexually oriented business.”

“I am asking the state to quickly clarify whether the governor intended for sexually oriented businesses like Onyx to be apart of of [sic] the businesses authorized to open on May 1," Turner wrote in a statement. “And if not, I am also asking the state via the Texas Attorney General to enforce the state’s order because the city cannot afford to expend its limited resources, i.e. fire and police, to defend the state’s order that a federal judge is now questioning.”

The raid

Club Onyx was raided after the club was open back up to customers Friday morning. Police said they are trying to figure out if the establishment is a restaurant or club. The owner said he has the proper permits to open as a restaurant or nightclub and he decided to open as a restaurant.

The club, located at 3113 Bering Dr., opened back up to customers just after 12 a.m.

At around 12:15 a.m., the Houston Police Department and the fire marshal reportedly made entry into the club. Witnesses said the music was shut off and the owner was visibly upset.

Houston police and the fire marshal said they were trying to figure out if the club has the correct permits to operate as a full-service restaurant.

While adult entertainment venues are not on the list of businesses allowed to reopen Friday, restaurants are, and so Club Onyx said it reopened as a restaurant with “featured entertainers."

Langan says the club’s kitchen fired up just as it did before the pandemic.

“They can take off their clothes if they want to, but I didn’t know the virus is spread through being naked. If it is then I’m in trouble,” said Langan with a chuckle.

The club said it would follow all the state guidelines and health recommendations of social distancing and maintaining hygiene.

Signs near the entrance emphasized safety measures with one on the front door clearly indicating everyone must order food.

“You have to eat now. Before you could just come there and hang out. You just can’t come there and hang out. You have to come and eat, we made it a restaurant,” Langan said.

Read the full petition for a temporary restraining order filed by Club Onyx below:

About the Authors:

Emmy Award-winning anchor/reporter, husband, dad, German Shepherd owner, Crossfitter, Game of Thrones junkie, chupacabra hunter.