NEW ORLEANS -- Anyone wanting to perform in a strip club anywhere in the state now has to be at least 21 years old.
Governor John Bel Edwards signed off on the bill on Thursday making Louisiana the first state to raise age restrictions on exotic dancers.
Bourbon Street is known for adult entertainment; from bars to strip clubs to XXX shops. Tourists and New Orleanians alike flock to take in the night scene and for some, visit a strip club.
"We haven't yet but we will,” said Yanel Cid, a visitor from Miami.
The change is a victory for Jim Kelly who runs Covenant House New Orleans which works with at-risk youth.
"If you have to be 21 to drink in a strip club, don't you think you ought to be 21 to take your clothes off in a strip club?,” asked Kelly, who was a vocal supporter of the legislation. “I think it’s logical and everyone gets that.”
He said raising the age requirement for exotic dancers is critical to keeping younger dancers out of harm’s way.
Last year, undercover stings exposed underage girls working at strip clubs who were involved in prostitution and drug dealing.
“We see time and time again that strip clubs are fertile ground for human traffickers to pick off to seduce to bring into their stable, young victims, young women,” added Kelly.
The sponsors of the bill said the main reason for pushing it through was to combat human trafficking along with other illegal activities happening in strip clubs.
Some visitors to Bourbon Street who spoke with WWL-TV about the exotic dancer age requirement being bumped up applauded the new law.
“I believe there's a huge difference between 18 and 21,” said a woman named Katie from Houston. “At 18 you're just finishing having people to tell you what to do and when to do it and at 21 you're truly an adult and on your own.”
Other tourists agreed.
"I think that's better, though, honestly it is because 18-year-olds, sometimes they're not so mature,” added Cid.
A public hearing is scheduled for June 28 at City Hall to talk about the future of strip clubs in New Orleans. Covenant House New Orleans said it will be introducing some recommendations to city leaders.