North Dakota oil boomtown of Williston suspends strip clubs' liquor licenses for second time

IndustriesAssociated Press

Williston commissioners have suspended the booze licenses of the oil boomtown's two strip clubs for the second time since last year for what police say are an excessive number of complaints about disorderly behavior.

Commissioners in Williston, located in the heart of western North Dakota's booming oil patch, voted unanimously Tuesday night to suspend for 60 days the liquor licenses at Whispers Nightclub and Heartbreakers Gentleman's Club.

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Commissioners also suspended the strip clubs' licenses in 2013 for excessive calls for disorderly behavior.

"If they can't fix the problem, the next step is to get rid of them," Mayor Howard Klug told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Representatives from the clubs did not immediately return or answer telephone calls from the AP.

Detective David Peterson said police have responded to almost 200 calls at the strip clubs in the past year and a half. The large number of calls at the strip clubs takes away police resources from the rest of the town, Peterson and the mayor said.

The complaints range from serving drunken customers to assaults to killings. One man was beaten to death outside the side-by-side strip clubs in August. In 2013, a man was shot and killed in front of the clubs.

The two clubs are on Main Street near Williston's Amtrak train depot, chamber of commerce and a senior center. The strip clubs are among 35 bars in town, the mayor said.

"We are dedicating 80 percent of our resources in the late evenings policing these two establishments," Klug said.

"By dedicating these resources on south Main Street, it leaves the rest of the community vulnerable," Peterson said.

Whispers has been in business since 1999; Heartbreakers opened in 2010, a few years after North Dakota's oil boom began. Former Mayor Ward Koeser, an outspoken critic of the clubs, cast the lone dissenting vote on the business license for Heartbreakers four years ago.

Whispers, the longer-established strip club, has offered casino-style blackjack and pull-tab tickets in the past, with half of the proceeds going to Williston State College to help fund scholarships at the two-year school.