Earlier this month, four strip clubs in Providence, Rhode Island, collaborated on a detailed safety proposal that they presented to the city's Board of Licenses after learning that Governor Gina Raimondo would allow outdoor entertainment when the state entered Phase Two of its reopening plan.
The owners of the Cadillac Lounge, Club Fantasies, Desire, and Foxy Lady all agreed that all outdoor seating would be eight feet apart or separated by a sheet of plexiglass or "other appropriate, non-porous physical barrier"; performers and patrons would be required to wear masks at all times; the stage itself would be surrounded by plexiglass; and no physical contact between performers and patrons would be allowed at any time. (They also pledged to clean the stage between performances—probably something that should've happened during the Before Times.)
"Adult entertainment might not be everyone’s favorite sector of the economy,” they wrote. “But it is a constitutionally protected industry that generates millions in income to those who work for these clubs, and substantial local tax revenue which pays for the things we care about most in our city.”
The Board of Licenses approved their plan, giving all four clubs the go-ahead to move forward with outdoor stripping... but nobody really seems into that, like, at all. Additionally, the performers are concerned that their income will significantly decrease since "side dances" (a.k.a. lap dances) are still off the table.
"They won’t make enough money for themselves," Frank DeLuca, the owner of Club Fantasies, told the Boston Globe. "I can’t tell them to come in. It’s up to them, because they’re independent contractors.” (He also estimated that two dozen customers came to the club, learned that lap dances weren't happening, and left.)
He only had one dancer who was interested in returning to perform outdoor dances. The others are hopeful that they'll soon be allowed to open for indoor shows at 50 percent capacity, and will be able to find a safe way to allow the dancers to sort-of interact with the patrons.
"That’s all we can do right now, which I don’t understand why when they can have massage parlors open,” he told WPRI. “Our entertainers, we can have them wear gloves and a mask and have them do a side dance. They’re not going to catch anything standing in front of the guy.”
Not every state has had to keep their adult performers outside on the patio. Ryan Carlson, the director of operations for Deja Vu Services, told VICE that that group has been able to re-open its clubs in Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas. "Sadly, Las Vegas still hasn’t allowed adult clubs to open," he wrote in an email. "It’s strange that the entertainment capital of the world has not yet followed suit." (Little Darlings regulars will still have to wait for their next "coronavirus-free lap dance.")
Carlson said that Deja Vu is "aggressively implementing" new safety procedures, including an hourly deep cleaning, "strictly enforced" social distancing, and mandatory masks for all employees. Patrons of the clubs are not required to wear face coverings, but he said that Deja Vu both encourages it and will provide free masks.
He said that "a few states" have limited lap dancing, but unless they've been told otherwise, those performances are still permitted. "Lap dances will always exist until the end of time. There is no other act that can replicate the thrill of an intimate, erotic experience in a fun nightclub environment," he said. "The government cannot easily—or rightfully—prohibit two consenting individuals from engaging in a lawful business transaction."
That could be why some Deja Vu clubs have already come close to breaking their all-time weekly sales records. "I am confident that our clubs are among the safest businesses that one can patronize during this 'pandemic,'" he said, putting a set of sarcastic quotes around that last word." We endure greater scrutiny than virtually any other industry except medicine and banking, so you can expect that we will religiously follow all CDC guidelines and go above and beyond for our guests’ safety."