Strip Club Operator Threatens With Drag-Queen Event

Rhett Pardon
SALEM, S.D. — You can’t fight City Hall. Or maybe not.

Bob Rieger, owner of Racehorses Gentleman's Club and Adult Movie Theater, said he will fight tit for tat with civic leaders if they pass an ordinance next week that would ban nude dancing and regulate other forms of sexually oriented activity.

Rieger said he plans to sponsor an outdoor drag-queen festival on Salem, S.D.’s 125th anniversary celebration (July 2) if McCook County commissioners place new regulations on his business.

Rieger claims the ordinance would make it impossible for him to operate an exotic-dancing club, and he thinks an annual drag-queen event could help provide a substitute income.

He also said he would plan more events throughout the year to replace his strip club business if the ordinance becomes law.

In October, he hopes to conduct a "Salem Witch Trial Days" with mock trials and costume competitions. According to the local newspaper, Rieger has often referred to female critics of his club as the "Salem witches." Salem has a population of 1,400.

Rieger opened the club two years ago in a former diner but does not sell alcohol because county commissioners denied him a liquor license.

From the get-go, officials battled to close the club, including one argument that claimed the club was illegally operating in an area zoned for agricultural use. Rieger's lawyer later argued that the business was "grandfathered in" because the building was used as a steakhouse before McCook County enacted its current zoning laws.

Rieger said that if commissioners don’t adopt the ordinance, he will consider canceling the drag-queen event, which would be held in his parking lot and across the street from some of the city’s festivities.

“I'm going to do whatever I have to in order to stay alive," he said.