Harris County approves new regulations for sexually oriented businesses, prohibits 'robot brothels'

New regulations further limit sexually oriented businesses in Harris County.

New regulations further limit sexually oriented businesses in Harris County.

Harris County approved new regulations prohibiting businesses that allow customers to interact with "sex robots," according to the Harris County Attorney's Office.

Harris County Commissioners Court discussed the county’s rules regulating sexually oriented businesses at a meeting earlier this month, resulting in the decision to revise those rules to specifically prohibit businesses that allow customers to use “anthropomorphic devices or objects,” or “sex robots,” on Oct. 23, according to the county attorney’s office.

First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said the revised regulations have new sections regarding conduct by employees and customers of sexually oriented businesses, and the rules have been arranged for ease of reading.

“These businesses can be havens for human trafficking and other serious crimes,” County Attorney Vince Ryan said in an emailed statement. “The revisions will allow law enforcement to better protect our community.”

The changes include new definitions for adult motels, cabarets, bookstores, theaters and arcades, including a definition of “adult arcade” that now includes businesses where customers are invited to interact with a device or object, Soard said. Activities involving such a “sex robot” are prohibited, and the language matches that in city of Houston ordinances, he said.

A business is also in violation if three or more specific offenses occur within a 365-day period at the business: prostitution, compelling prostitution, employing a minor, human trafficking, or sexual conduct or performance by a child, according to the new regulations.

Businesses are also required to post a sign with educational information about human trafficking and must include information about the National Human Trafficking Hotline, according to the new regulations.

Businesses in violation are charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to a $4,000 fine and up to one year in jail, according to the regulations.



By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.

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