Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Adult Entertainment Industry Feels Pinch Of Tough Economy

By NICOLA M. WHITE | The Tampa Tribune
Published: July 8, 2008

TAMPA - Jessica Mann and Rebecca Massicotte swiveled around a pole in high-heeled platforms and bikini tops.

Two men in velvet chairs looked on.

The women are used to sparse crowds on weekday afternoons at the Deja Vu strip club on Adamo Drive. But not like this.

As the economy slumps and gas prices rise, Americans are tightening belts. That means even here in Tampa, the self-professed "Lap Dance Capital of the World," the area's adult entertainment venues are taking a hit.

Profits are down 25 percent to 30 percent this year, said Deja Vu general manager Eric Terrell, who goes by the name Ice.

Guys in suits out to entertain their clients no longer have such plush expense accounts. The customers who once thought nothing of plunking down a few hundred bucks - even a grand or two - on credit cards for private dances in the champagne room now balk at their monthly statements.

Mostly, the clients just don't walk through the door.

"What we are seeing is there's a trickle-down effect because of the subprime mortgage crisis," said Angelina Spencer, national executive director of the Association of Club Executives, a group that represents adult entertainment clubs. "This is resulting in less people going to all sorts of entertainment venues, not just adult entertainment venues."

Spencer, who used to run a club in Cleveland and now lives in Naples, fields calls every day from strip club owners feeling the pinch of a bad economy.

"Entertainment is one of those luxury items; it's one of the first things people give up," she said.

While an ailing economy may bring fewer customers to local strip clubs, it often, however, will bring out more women willing to give pole dancing a try.

"If it's hard to find even a regular job out there, I'll get more dancers," said Joe Redner, owner of Tampa's iconic Mons Venus club on Dale Mabry Highway.

His club's business is down 25 percent in this struggling economy, he said.

Most adult entertainers work as independent contractors, meaning they pay club owners a fee to perform and then pocket the money they earn from tips and private dances.

Because it doesn't cost club owners extra cash to take on new dancers, club managers lose nothing by adding more women to their dance roster. This, of course, means more competition for tips and private dances among the women.

"They're having to work longer hours and actually work a little harder," Redner said.

Mann, 28, worked at Deja Vu 10 years ago, bringing in big cash for the then-18-year-old dancer.

"It was wonderful back then," she said.

She made $400-500 most nights. But she didn't want to dance forever so she left the business to go to school and become a certified nurse's assistant and medical technician.

The problem: She earned $9.75 per hour and found herself living paycheck to paycheck. Three months ago, she came back to Déjà vu and started dancing again.

Massicotte, 24, who started dancing at 18, earned $2,200 a week during the good years.

Those payouts are over.

"The regulars we used to have three to four times a week, we don't have that anymore. They're looking for dance specials," she said.

Neither woman, however, wants to leave the business any time soon. Although some nights they don't come home with much money, in what is perhaps a bigger indictment of the local economy, dancing pays more than a traditional gig.

"It's still more than a 40-hour-a-week job," Mann said.

There might be a bright spot on the horizon, though: football. Particularly that one big game in February.

"We're all holding our breath for the Super Bowl," said Monica Fox, a manager and consultant at Deja Vu.

Source: Tampa Bay Online

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