Monday, January 10, 2011

naked capitalism


Video - Old commercial for the The Lodge.

NYTimes | Dallas clubs run the gamut, from parolee and sailors-on-leave sorts of dives where a mild-mannered writer has no business being, to the high-end establishments with their slathers of French Quarter swank, heavy on gilt and red-velvet. At the Lodge, Dallas’s most upscale club, alcohol sales are up more than 11 percent from last year. “We’re doing better than real estate,” is how Michael Precker, the co-manager, put it.

Even in a market as competitive as Dallas, which is home to upward of 40 topless clubs, neither Mr. Precker nor Dawn Rizos, the chief executive of the Lodge, could think of a single club that’s closed its doors during the past two years. But what, a neophyte might wonder, made Dallas a mecca for strip clubs?

“Because we’re in the Bible Belt,” said Ms. Rizos. “There’s a church on every block, and men just like to sneak around. Most of our customers are married men. They get a little bored with their wives, they can come in here and get some flirtation, our girls make them feel good and special, then they go home and feel so guilty about it that they treat their wives really nicely.”

“It’s very Baptist,” she continued. “If you’re going to give up sin, you got to sin.”

We were having this conversation in the Champagne Room, which with its oak barrels, jeroboams and country-manor d├ęcor could pass for the tasting room of a Napa winery. The Library Room features dark wood paneling, club chairs and shelves lined with books-by-the-foot; think of the Harvard Club, except with lots of beautiful, naked women. Ms. Rizos, the daughter of two doctors and sister to three more, opened the Lodge in 1996, in part with money invested from her mother and siblings. (“No bank was going to lend me money to build this place,” she snorted.)

Ms. Rizos was determined to offer the best food, the prettiest women, the most luxurious setting. She was equally determined that the Lodge would be a good place to work, and so the club has an on-site spa and salon for employees, an on-site wardrobe service, a full-time house mother and a points system for bonuses. Dancers can get tax and investment advice, as well as tuition money for college.

“This is a club that’s structured for the girls to make money,” one dancer told me, a young woman from Milwaukee who traveled to Dallas solely to work at the Lodge. “Most clubs want their cut of pretty much anything that runs through your hands, and this club isn’t like that.”

Be smart, Ms. Rizos and Mr. Precker tell their dancers. Save your money, get educated, buy property. Plan for life after dancing. Some of the waitresses make over $100,000 a year, the top dancers well in excess of that. Ms. Rizos’s business model makes a strong case for small-scale capitalism, a model where the focus is long-term, your people are taken care of, and the pay scale is such that everyone is making money.