Notorious ‘Naked Harem’ sign removed 15 years after shut down

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – If you’ve ever driven down Alameda street, chances are you have seen the bright neon lights of the infamous “Naked Harem.” On Friday, the lights were dimmed forever as the sign came down, nearly a decade and a half after closing.

The decision was made by El Paso County officials in hopes of turning it into something productive to help the community.

Before it became a strip club, it was once a theater. County Commissioner David Stout said, “It is a historic property with lots of negative history.”

One El Pasoan, Diego Gomez, shared with KTSM 9 News about what he remembers from the business, “Last time I heard about it, there was a prostitution ring going on. There’s actually a lot of private rooms, and when you stepped in there, you would see a lot of important people with lots of money, at least that’s what I remember when I was like 17 or 18.”

The former strip club was shutdown in 2006 by authorities after its two owners were accused of using the business for promoting prostitution among underage girls.

It was once run by co-owners Phillys Woodall and Jeanette Coutta who were both indicted separately by former District Attorney Jaime Esparza.

Woodall received a 16-year sentence for engaging in organized criminal activity and promotion of prostitution. Coutta was indicted in 2009 for aggravated promotion of prostitution and organized criminal activity, and was given a 33-year sentence while the property was seized by the county.

County commissioners said taking down the sign is one of the first steps they’re doing to reflect something positive with the property. Commissioner Stout said that according to the law, the site has to be used into something that will help the community due to chapter 59.

“There are boundaries that are set when it comes to the use of that site, and so it has to utilized for mental health, drug rehabilitation services or services to help women experiencing abuse,” Commissioner Stout said.

He also added he believes it should be a community driven process, “Before the District Attorney left office, he asked us here at the Commissioners Court if we would go ahead and take that property and put it to good use, so we are open to ideas from the community.”

Commissioner Stout said the sign will be destroyed because they do not want any reminders of what it used to represent in the community.

Valley Theater (ca. 1963) before becoming the Naked Harem – Photo courtesy El Paso County Historical Society

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