A Harris County judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday against Insomnia Lounge, an after-hours bar in the Westwood neighborhood of southwest Houston. The order says the bar must stay closed until it makes a number of changes — most important, obtaining a valid liquor license.
Undercover officers purchased alcohol at the club on May 25, according to a news release from the Harris County Attorney’s Office. At around 3 a.m., the officers kicked out roughly 150 customers and arrested the bar manager and two bartenders.
On social media, Insomnia advertised its opening hours as 1 a.m., an hour before bars are supposed to close, according to the news release. "Party Till 6 a.m.," reads a flyer for an event at the club, which the Harris County Attorney's Office provided to the Houston Press.
Insomnia’s closure marks at least the second time a Houston after-hours was closed this year. In March, the Houston Police Department raided and shut down Club Life in Midtown.
In both cases, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan slapped the bar managers and landlords with a temporary restraining order and a lawsuit. The goal of these lawsuits is to make it harder for another after-hours venue to open in that same location, and to make sure owners seeking to avoid prosecution are still held accountable, said Rosemarie Donnelly, an assistant county attorney.
“[HPD’s] role is to arrest people for crimes,” she said. “What we do is, we come after the business owner. They’re not being arrested, they’re not being prosecuted criminally, but they’re continuing illegal activities. They’re turning a blind eye or they’re actually profiting from it.”
Donnelly said lawsuits like these are a priority for Ryan, the county attorney. She cited illegal gambling parlors, unlicensed massage parlors and hotels that ignore prostitution and drug dealing as other possible targets for suits like these.
These black-market businesses “spawn a great deal of ancillary crime,” Donnelly said, including DUIs, assaults and prostitution.
In 2012, a man was shot and killed at Palace Gentleman’s Club, a strip club that previously stood in the same location as Insomnia. Club Life, the bar in Midtown, also attracted its fair share of crimes, including at least one stabbing and sexual assault.
In southwest Houston in particular, Donnelly said, the prevalence of after-hours bars had become “out of control.” She hoped the lawsuits would serve as a warning for other corrupt landowners in the area.
“This has got to stop,” she said. “It’s gotten really out of hand.”