New Orleans Strip Club Stays Put in Wake of Katrina

NEW ORLEANS — There’s no running water, no electricity, and no customers, but Big Daddy’s strip club is still set to reopen as soon as owner Saint Johns can get his dancers back.

Johns, along with a handful of helpers, has ignored evacuation orders, preferring to stay at the normally bustling club that has been a mainstay in the French Quarter for years. Stocked with bottled water and power from a generator, Johns is on a quest to convince all his former employees to return, despite the fact that, technically, the whole city is off limits to civilians in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.

“It shouldn't be too hard,” Johns said. “Everyone's going to come back in town and want to work.”

When that may be is anybody’s guess. The pavement along Bourbon Street is still covered in patches of dirty water, parted only by the rolling tread of military vehicles. By all accounts the air is so thick with rot it is difficult to breathe, and the official death toll from Katrina rose today to nearly 280 people, with many more expected as the waters continue to recede.

Nonetheless, Johns is still optimistic, perhaps due to the reactions he’s had from troops in the area. He said most of them have either asked when the strippers are returning or swig down the free vodka Johns doles out in paper cups. None, he said, have asked him to leave.

The biggest obstacle for the club right now, according to Johns, is the lack of water, making it difficult to promote Big Daddy’s main attraction: “Wash the girl of your choice.” He was dismayed of news from Sgt. John Zeller, a California National Guard engineer, who told reporters today it will be least at three months before the New Orleans public water system is fully operational. But Johns is still determined.

"We'll make sure they get showers," he said confidently.