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Faced with changing attitudes, tightening regulations and a booming online pornography industry, strip clubs are closing across the US. Sex may still sell in magazines and movies, but are American strip clubs a dying institution, asks Jonathan Berr. These days, few executives would be willing to risk possibly losing their jobs and the resulting personal humiliation by seeking reimbursement from their employers for an outing at a strip club.
But strip club operator Alan Markovitz said such calls were typical in the late s and s. Mr Markovitz, a Michigan entrepreneur who has strip club operations in four states, told the BBC he would routinely get notified that a powerful executive was arriving to make sure that they got good seats.
During the industry's heyday, customers weren't so timid. Strip club operators would even play along, using innocuous-sounding names on their credit card slips to avoid suspicion. Indeed, strip club outings were tolerated on Wall Street and in other industries for years until female employees filed suit against their employers earlier in the decade and won tens of millions in lawsuits. In addition, the industry is facing some punishing economic trends including a declining customer base, an abundance of free internet pornography and rising employee costs.
At live adult entertainment venues, selling sex it isn't nearly as profitable as it used to be. Annual revenue growth at US strip clubs was 4. The number of strip clubs has also declined in recent years in major US cities and their surrounding suburbs. The number of strip clubs in Atlanta has dropped from 45 to 30 in the last 10 years, according to Alan Begner, an attorney who represents strip clubs.
Some operators are being forced out by landlords while others are facing new bans on nude dancing in clubs which serve alcohol, where they get most of their profits, Mr Begner said. Strip club owners are also facing federal class action lawsuit brought by dancers demanding to be classified as employees as opposed to independent contractors under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.