North Dakota Strip Clubs: A Portent Of The Future?

WILLISTON, N.D.—The Midwest isn't exactly known as a bastion of liberalism, and with the incoming administration in Washington, D.C., that's not likely to change for the better. In fact, it's likely to get worse.

Case in point: The Williston Herald, which just found out its main conservative columnist Thomas Sowell is retiring from hawking right-wing horseshit on a weekly basis, and is trying to figure out which similar jackass to bring on board, has printed its list of Top 10 stories of 2016, and No. 3 was one from January, "City closes downtown strip clubs."

Understand, the clubs, Heartbreakers and Whispers, weren't doing anything wrong, but at a city commissioners meeting that month, the five pols passed three new ordinances pretty much guaranteed to drive the clubs out of business: No alcohol service allowed, a new "cabaret license" requirement—and a restriction of "exotic dancing" to industrial zones.

As might have been expected, "The decision was met with pushback and almost entirely opposed during public comment," the newspaper reported. Moreover, although "Williston Police Lt. Detective David Peterson stated the department had to allocate more resources to patrol the area, pointing out that more than 200 police calls from 2013 to 2015 were made to Whispers and Heartbreakers ... attorney Greg Hennessy, who represented Heartbreakers, when searching through the same police reports[,] discovered 1,081 calls to law enforcement related to liquor establishments during the same period and felt it was misleading."

Williston apparently doesn't have a grandfather clause, so faced with extinction, Whispers converted to a sports bar, in part to retain its liquor license, while Heartbreakers "announced it would convert to a gay bar, which some saw as an attempt to thumb its nose at the city." That move didn't last long, however, and Heartbreakers is now another sports bar, apparently specializing in beer pong.

Between the two businesses, about 30 regular employees were put out of work, as well as about 30 dancers—not an insignificant number considering that the entire population of the town was just over 20,000 in 2013—and with the sharp reduction in oil prices in 2014, leading to wholesale layoffs in the Williston area drilling business and consequent worker departures, it's not like Williston can really afford any more unemployment.

And strangely, "Since then, no one has yet to announce the intent to open a strip club in an industrial zone."

Welcome to 2017!