Strip Clubs Pony Up For The DNC
It's not just city officials and business leaders rolling out the red carpet for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. So is the adult entertainment industry. The same thing is happening in Tampa, the site of the Republican National Convention. As WFAE's Tanner Latham reports, strip club owners, managers, and dancers are all hoping to cash in on the excitement.
Tanner Latham: David “Slim” Baucom has been in the strip club business in Charlotte for almost 30 years. He owns seven clubs, including a little placed called Twin Peeks up in the university area.
David “Slim” Baucom: We've repainted the whole outside and the whole exterior. We've added awning on the back for the entertainers going in and out. We've added a privacy fence, because they used to have to stand outside and smoke.
By the time the DNC rolls around in September, Slim will have spent about $150,000 in renovations. New carpet, new paint, new surfaces for the parking lots.
Slim's business has thrived during big sporting events. NASCAR race weeks are especially lucrative. But a political convention is uncharted territory. He's optimistic that the week of the DNC will be his most profitable of the year.
David “Slim” Baucom: I hope I'm so busy making money, I don't know what's going on.
The closest strip club to the convention is Uptown Cabaret, located about a mile away. Managers there would not talk to WFAE, but a building permit shows it is in the process of a $350,000 addition.
But this is a non-partisan story. Strip clubs in Tampa, Florida, are also gearing up for the Republican National Convention.
Isaac Zalta: The biggest thing we did was build more of a true VIP area.
This is Isaac Zalta, the general manager of a Tampa club called Scores.
Zalta wouldn't reveal specific numbers, but he says the club is quadrupling its advertising budget leading up to the convention. More billboards and more ads for radio, TV, and online. The inside changes include a new stage and lighting.
Isaac Zalta: I think people are people, and when they're away from home, and they're part of something this big, and there are a lot of positive vibes out there, everybody's rooting for their candidate. I think you get that mentality of guys wanting to go out - guys and girls - and wanting to have a really good time.
He is also adding Kobe steaks to the menu just for the RNC.
Okay, so which political convention is best for the adult entertainment industry?
Angelina Spencer: Hands down, the Republicans have always been our best customers.
Angelina Spencer is the Executive Director of the Association of Club Executives, which is the national trade organization for adult nightclubs.
Angelina Spencer: And they tend to be business-focused. That's really all I can say. We get clients from all walks of life, but for whatever reason, I have heard club owners say, "Boy, those Republicans really are great customers."
She says it's not that there are more Republicans at the clubs. It's that they have more to spend.
But Duke Dearing, a manager of two clubs near the 2008 DNC in Denver, was happy with the profits he had four years ago.
Duke Dearing: During the course of the time the convention was there, their business was probably up in the neighborhood of 20% over what would be considered normal.
Back in Charlotte, location might play a role. The Gold Club in South Charlotte sits about seven miles from the Time Warner Cable Arena. Jolie has been a stripper there for 10 years.
Jolie: My big concern is that a good portion are going to stay just to downtown Charlotte.
The club is across the street from a light rail stop. Jolie says that during the DNC, they will waive cover charges if the patron has a light rail pass. She's hoping that promotion will entice more customers, because the recession has hit her pretty hard. She now works twice as many hours a week to make ends meet.
Jolie: For what I would bring in in a yearly base, it's been cut in half. Easy. So when you're used to living a certain way of living, your style of life, you've got to change it.
Still, no matter how many Democrats make it to the Gold Club, Jolie will stick by an old rule she learned growing up.
Jolie: Daddy always said, "Don't talk politics with anybody."