At the crux of many legal arguments advocating for and protecting the gentlemen’s club industry is the First Amendment.

Free speech is roaring again, even in the face of COVID as a gentlemen’s club in San Diego has been exempt from new state rules mandating business closures in an attempt to stem the surge of COVID cases.

But the city isn’t happy with the idea of two gentlemen’s clubs being open when restaurants, bars and other businesses have been forced to trim hours or close outright.

Pacers Showgirls International and Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club have been allowed to stay open—though they have to follow the nightly curfew—thanks to a judge’s ruling on Nov. 6 that protects the clubs from California’s new stay-at-home order arguing adult live entertainment is “constitutionally protected speech.” (h/t Julie Watson, Associated Press)

San Diego County officials plan to appeal if the injunction presently protecting the clubs isn’t lifted.

It is the latest in a series of legal volleys between the clubs and the county and state.

Pacers and Cheetahs were originally ordered to close via public health order but sued and the resulting injunction is what’s keeping them open, for now.

Both establishments have followed social distancing rules. Pacers even has entertainers and patrons 15 feet apart. The lawyer representing Pacers, Jason Saccuzzo, said he doesn’t know of any COVID cases being linked to either club and stressed how the First Amendment prevails, even against a pandemic.

“The right of free expression applies not only to so-called ‘strip clubs,’ but to all live performers in California,” he said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday. “Unfortunately, the county has singled out adult entertainment venues for closure without any proof that live adult entertainment has resulted or will result in COVID-19 transmission.”

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