Strip Clubs Deal With Rising Gas Prices

Tod Hunter
LOS ANGELES — As the rising price of gasoline is forcing consumers to reevaluate discretionary spending, strip clubs are facing a challenge of getting and keeping customers.

Ross Yamashita, Vice President of Marketing at Spearmint Rhino, told XBIZ that Spearmint Rhino clubs are actively promoting and attendance "has remained steady, and in some cases, actually increased. We've taken aggressive action with increasing in-club promotions, events and have increased advertising to help expose the clubs and our brand to new guests.

"The average dollar amount each guest spends in the club has dropped slightly as guests are more conscientious of their spending habits, especially when it comes to entertainment. However, with the increase of new guests in the club, it all averages out."

Individual Spearmint Rhino dancers are affected by the downturn, according to Yamashita.

"Management from the clubs has reported a minimal decline in entertainers' income, but because we have such a large, loyal guest base as well as new guests visiting the clubs every day, our entertainers consistently have the opportunity to make money.

"Knowing the economy is down and guests' apprehension on spending, entertainers are coming in to work more often so we’re seeing an increase of the numbers of entertainers per shift."

Business is good at the upscale chain Rick's Cabaret, which operates gentlemen's clubs in Texas and the east, including a flagship club in Manhattan across 33rd Street from the Empire State Building.

"The gasoline prices are having virtually no effect on us," Rick's Cabaret representative Allan Priaulx told XBIZ. "The effects, if any, are being felt in our smaller markets. There is no impact in New York City, where the transportation model is different — everybody takes public transportation — and in most of our markets it's not a factor."

In some areas, the clubs are hurting. "People just don't have the money to go out, they don't have the money to buy a drink, they certainly don't have the money to spend on an entertainer," said Joe Serafini, manager of Emperor's Gentlemen's Club in Jacksonville, Fla. Serafini said he has been forced to lay off staff, reduce prices and limit hours to turn a profit.

Although many customers have likely received an economic stimulus refund from the federal government, Serafini said that money is not being spent in his club.

Some dancers in Florida are feeling the pinch as well.

"I have to go to other places to try to make the money," said Storm, an exotic dancer in Florida. "[I've gone from] about a grand a week down to a couple hundred."

Business also is down in the Midwest.

Tim Case, General Manager of the Flamingo Showclub in Dayton, Ohio, told XBIZ that he's seen a change in business ever since gas went over $3.50 a gallon.

"We're down right now. Everyone in Dayton is down. I have one girl who drives from Chillicothe, about 90 minutes away, and it's barely worth it for her to come to work on the weekdays."

Case is implementing promotions at the Flamingo, including daily happy hours, daily specials like "2 for Tuesdays" with two-for-one lap dances and "Couples and bikes night" where couples and bike riders get free admission and events like a recent audience-participation quiz, "Are you smarter than a stripper?"