Exotic economics: Strip clubs ready to cash in on RNC boom
TAMPA - It's a celebration of a platform heavy on conservative values. But if just 1 percent of the 50,000 people here for the Republican convention slips off to visit one of Tampa's signature strip clubs, that spells a boost for the local industry. "You just bring in a ton of people," said Scott Cunningham, a Baylor University assistant professor of economics who has studied the adult industry. Many of the 50 or so clubs operating in the Tampa area are adding dancers, inventing GOP drink specials, even putting up tents for discreet limousine exits — all to capture the attention of the crowds coming to town for the Aug. 27-30 convention."Maybe every time that there's a convention in town with a lot of men there's an increase in demand," Cunningham said. "They are not going to stock up on inventory for no good reason." Warren Colazzo has been preparing his club since November. Thee Dollhouse on West Shore Boulevard has spent $1.5 million on renovations inside and out, said Colazzo, the general manager. His wait staff and bartenders will wear red, white and blue corsets, and doormen will wear red, white and blue ties. The club has RNC golf shirts and T-shirts to give away. And Thee Dollhouse has already generated national attention for booking porn star Lisa Ann, who trades on her resemblance to John McCain's 2008 presidential running mate Sarah Palin. Her series of performances ends tonight. "I'm just hoping for the best," Colazzo said. "I think it's going to be a line out the door for hours." The 2001 Odyssey on North Dale Mabry Highway has received about a half-dozen anonymous calls asking about accessibility and a private entrance, said Don Kleinhans, club owner. So 2001 Odyssey has installed a 20-foot-tall, 30-foot-wide covered tent where limousines can drop off guests in the VIP entrance, Kleinhans said. The club has also made upgrades throughout, including sky boxes where six to eight people can sit in a private setting that overlooks the club, Kleinhans said. The investment is a risk, Kleinhans said. "It's extremely unknown territory," he said. "We are in a wait and see." Still, he said, "We are pretty pumped. In this kind of economy, it's a good shot in the arm." In Clearwater, Oz Ladies and Gentlemen's Night Club is offering specials. Anyone who shows up at the club during the convention with RNC credentials gets free admission, a free drink and complimentary lap dance, said John Paquette, dayshift manager. Paquette is counting on business from beach hotels booked for the RNC delegations. "I think everyone in the area is hoping to get an increase in business," Paquette said. When Tampa learned it had landed the convention in May 2010, adult industry legend Joe Redner, owner of the Mons Venus on North Dale Mabry Highway, predicted big business for next week. "Washington, D.C., per capita, sells more bondage leather than any place else in the world," he told the Tribune then. "Those people are kinky." Now, Redner said he doesn't know what to expect. He isn't planning anything special yet, but if traffic warrants it, he'll open 24 hours and increase the $20 cover charge, he said. RNC planners have compared the local impact to a Super Bowl, but much, much bigger. Redner, whose club sits across the street from Raymond James Stadium — Tampa's Super Bowl venue — isn't so sure. "I think we are going to get a bump in business," Redner said. "I don't know if it will be a Super Bowl-size bump in business."
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