As downtown Minneapolis becomes more appealing to residents, what’s next for the adult businesses that have long been there? Some have downsized or been bought by out-of-town owners.
The North Loop’s Choice is one of the few independently owned and operated strip clubs in the city. While Deja Vu and Dreamgirls are run by local club kingpin Pete Hafiz, the clubs are part of a nationwide chain.
High-end topless bar the Seville, near Target Center, was purchased by Rick’s Cabaret last spring. That outfit has its own downtown outpost, and swallowed the former Schieks Palace Royale in 2011, rebranding it Downtown Cabaret. Also last spring, London-based Spearmint Rhino opened on Hennepin Avenue.
Seville owner Dino Perlman said until he sold his club, it was a “ma-and-pa shop.”
“When the offer came, I was hesitant,” he said. “I built the place. There were still umbilical cords there.”
But the “massive financial umbrella” of Houston-based RCI Hospitality Holdings (aka Rick’s), a publicly traded company, could withstand any changes the industry was seeing, he believed. Now, with so many out-of-towners digging into the industry here, he sees stability among bigger clubs, especially the topless joints that can still legally serve alcohol.
“I don’t see any cornerstone clubs pulling away,” he said.
With almost 20 years working in Minneapolis nightlife, Perlman has seen myriad changes in music and fashion. But there’s something timeless, he said, about topless bars.
“This industry is sort of like an old Jewish deli,” he said. “If your food is really good, you don’t have to be anything but an old Jewish deli. You’re gonna do well.”
However, Deja Vu and Choice, two longtime nude strip clubs within a couple of blocks of soon-to-be-downsized Sex World in the North Loop, have seen some stark changes since the adult industry’s early ’90s heyday. The Internet is most often cited as the culprit, with its cheap, easy and in-the-privacy-of-your-own-home access to porn. But there are other factors, such as fluctuations in the stock market, and a disinclination by millennials to go to strip clubs as much as their elders, that are leading to those empty stages and seats.
Marilyn, a longtime dancer at Deja Vu, remembers when the club was packed “wall-to-wall” with customers, even during the day. The shows then were of a grand scale, she said, not like today’s two songs and a couple of spins on the pole while one middle-aged man watches and a couple of lunching friends chitchat.
“It was glamorous,” she said. “We entertained.”
Yet, what draws new residents and their high-end tastes to the area also appeals to the adult business owners.
Brian Michael’s topless bar Augie’s, on Hennepin, faces two new hotel developments.
“The city as a whole is thinking about how to coexist with a residential profile of business, of commerce, of entertainment and a hospitality nightlife district,” Michael said. “It’s all sort of commingling in a very unique chemistry, which is one of the reasons why I love Minneapolis.”