Strip Clubs Are the Next Hot Thing on Wall Street, Fund Manager Tells Barron’s

Strip clubs are a buy, says Peter Siris, managing partner of Guerilla Capital Management. Once you eliminate the mafia connection, there’s no problem. Never mind these clubs are like wrecking balls to marriages and communities, or the conditions the dancers work under, or the realities of sex trafficking. Siris pitches his case this week to Barron’s. The cool, detached, ‘rational’ way this subject is discussed reminds us of The New York Times’ profile of, the torture porn producers…

How about the strip club business? What attracts you to it?

Let me say that I’ve never visited a gentlemen’s club. It’s not my idea of how to spend an evening. But I recognize a good business when I see it.

We’re not sure if we believe you about visiting the clubs, but go on.

First, they have 90% gross margins. If you go into a
gentlemen’s club, they charge you a cover and a lot of money for
drinks. Secondly, the girls who work there, the dancers, or what the
industry calls the “talent,” pay $150 to $200 a shift for the privilege
of working. It’s my kind of business where you charge both customers
and employees to walk in the door.

The dancers presumably make enough money in tips to offset the fee they pay?

They make money in tips. Or they can be like Anna
Nicole Smith, who started out working at Rick’s Cabaret. That’s where
she met Howard Marshall, the billionaire she married. I asked one guy
in the business, “What’s the biggest risk to your business model?” He
said if the government stops immigration from Eastern Europe. These
companies net 35% to 40% pre-tax, after all their expenses. There are
huge barriers to entry. Why? Because most people don’t want them in
their neighborhoods. There are big zoning restrictions. These companies
can make acquisitions at three to five times earnings. Why? Because
there aren’t a lot of buyers. The church isn’t going to buy one. We may
laugh about it, but flash back 20 or 30 years ago, and people might
have reacted the same way to an investment in a casino company. Now the
funds that won’t buy an MGM Mirage are few and far between.

How do you play this sector?

There are two public companies that we like a lot. One is VCG Holding, ticker PTT, and the other is Rick’s Cabaret,
ticker RICK. This is a real business, one that takes management, where
you can develop a national brand and have VIP cards that you can use in
city after city…

People might worry about mob influence after watching The Sopranos. Is that a problem?

No. What you really have to look at in this business
is management. VCG’s president, Michael Ocello, is on the school board
of a town near St. Louis. When he ran for the school board, his
opponent said, “You run a strip club.” Ocello still won. The reality is
these are well-managed public companies that have to follow all the
rules, and they’ve walked away from business that they thought was
dicey… When these companies come around to talk
to investors, you get a lot of the hedge-fund managers who want to hear their story.

Added 7/14/07:

Today’s Barron’s contains our letter to the editor, responding to the above interview with Peter Siris. Here is the text of our letter as published:

Turning a Blind Eye

To the Editor:

Strip clubs may be lucrative for their owners (“A Fresh Eye on China Stocks,” July 2), but it’s not true that once you eliminate the organized-crime connection, there’s no problem.

These clubs are like wrecking balls to marriages and
communities. The dancers work under abusive conditions. Drugs, disease
and prostitution are prevalent, and the realities of sex trafficking
from Eastern Europe are not to be taken lightly. It’s no wonder that
alert communities use zoning to keep these enterprises away from homes.

Responsible investors need to ask themselves if this is really a business they want to be in.

Adam R. Cohen
Northampton, Mass.

See also:

The Science Behind Pornography Addiction (explicit language)
[Performers in the sex industry] have high rates of substance abuse,
typically alcohol and cocaine, depression, borderline personality
disorder which is a particularly serious disorder and dissociative
identity disorder which used to be called multiple personality
disorder. The experience I find most common among the performers is
that they have to be drunk, high or dissociated in order to go to work.
Their work environment is particularly toxic. One study on strippers
indicated that they were likely to be punched, slapped, grabbed, called
cunt and whore and to be followed home or stalked. Not surprisingly,
these women often work with bodyguards. This live form of pornography
causes violence and the customers receiving these Permission-Giving
Beliefs become carriers of these beliefs back to their homes, onto
their jobs, into the street, onto the school yard. There they encounter
women and children who do not have bodyguards.

The terrible work
life of the pornography performer is often followed by an equally
terrible home life. They have an increased risk of sexually transmitted
disease including HIV, domestic violence and have about a 25% chance of
making a marriage that lasts as long as 3 years.

“Waitressing, I cleaned the floors and I own a box of men’s wedding rings that I found on the floor.”
I went back to the strip bars to make money. I cannot tell you the lie
and the fantasy that it is for men. Waitressing, I cleaned the floors
and I own a box of men’s wedding rings that I found on the floor…

degradation and inferiority and humiliation of being presented as two
tits and a hole for entertainment was not as bad as the sexual
harassment I received from the management of these places. Customers
are not allowed to touch you, but management can and does. You cannot
complain to the Labor Board because they say you put yourself there
willingly, and usually it’s under the table. I felt worthless…

Former Stripper Tells Easthampton Hearing about the Life: It Stinks
The first speaker was Karen Harrison, who said she was a strip-dancer
for eight years and is now a teacher. Harrison, who did not say where
she is from, predicted sexual disease, violence, rape, murder of women
and drunk driving would increase if the nude dancing comes to

“I’m not a psychic, but I predict local prostitution and drug dealing will flourish and get bolder,” Harrison said.

then told the story of her eight years working in strip bars in four
states, including Massachusetts. Her story, which she said was not for
the “squeamish,” included harassment by clients and management and the
prevalence of venereal disease in strip bars.

CNN: Anna Nicole Smith, 1967-2007
[Larry] King said Smith reminded people of late movie star Marilyn Monroe. Monroe died at 36 of a drug overdose in 1962.

Smith “had a very troubled life,” Lenard Leeds, a former lawyer for Smith, told the Web site

“She wanted to be like Marilyn her whole life and ironically died in a similar manner,” Leeds told the site.

On sale at Tesco, Kiddie Stripper Pole
the sex kitten inside … soon you’ll be flaunting it to the world and
earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars.’ – From a product listing
by $75 billion British retailer Tesco, plugging the $100 Peekaboo Pole
Dancing Kit – which includes an 8.5-foot chrome pole, a ‘sexy dance
garter,’ and play money for stuffing into said garter – in the Toys
& Games section of its website. After complaints from parent
groups, Tesco decides to keep selling the item as a ‘fitness accessory’
but agrees to remove the listing from the toy section.”

New York Times: “The Girls Next Door”; Worldwide Sex Trafficking; Role of Porn
In Eastern European capitals like Kiev and Moscow, dozens of
sex-trafficking rings advertise nanny positions in the United States in
local newspapers; others claim to be scouting for models and

women’s] idea of prostitution is ‘Pretty Woman,’ which is one of the
most popular films in Ukraine and Russia. They’re thinking, This may
not be so bad…”

Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves says: ”The physical path of a person
being trafficked includes stages of degradation of a person’s mental
state. A victim gets deprived of food, gets hungry, a little dizzy and
sleep-deprived. She begins to break down; she can’t think for herself.
Then take away her travel documents, and you’ve made her stateless.
Then layer on physical violence, and she begins to follow orders. Then
add a foreign culture and language, and she’s trapped…”

”There’s a vast misunderstanding of what coercion is, of how little it
takes to make someone a slave,” Gary Haugen of International Justice
Mission said. ”The destruction of dignity and sense of self, these
girls’ sense of resignation…”

If anything, the women I talked to said that the sex in the U.S. is
even rougher than what the girls face on Calle Santo Tomas. Rosario, a
woman I met in Mexico City, who had been trafficked to New York and
held captive for a number of years, said: ”In America we had ‘special
jobs.’ Oral sex, anal sex, often with many men. Sex is now more
adventurous, harder.” She said that she believed younger foreign girls
were in demand in the U.S. because of an increased appetite for more
aggressive, dangerous sex. Traffickers need younger and younger girls,
she suggested, simply because they are more pliable. In Eastern Europe,
too, the typical age of sex-trafficking victims is plummeting;
according to Matei of Reaching Out, while most girls used to be in
their late teens and 20’s, 13-year-olds are now far from unusual.

State of Minnesota, Report of the Attorney General’s Working
Group on the Regulation of Sexually Oriented Businesses, Office of
the Attorney General (June 6, 1989)

is a seminal work which
investigates the secondary effects of adult businesses from a number of
different research perspectives. Not only is the effect on crime
included, so is the effect on neighborhood disorganization and
disorder, as are the effects on property values addressed. The New York
study also concluded that business locations with adult-oriented
businesses had a significant loss of sales tax collections (42%) as
compared to control areas. Studies of Minneapolis, St. Paul,
Indianapolis, Phoenix, and Los Angeles are cited. RICO and organized
criminal elements of the industry
are also discussed. It was found that dramatic increases in crime rates
were directly
associated with the introduction of adult-oriented businesses into any
studied. Evidence is articulated indicating that property crimes were
forty to fifty
percent higher, and sex-related crimes were found to be seventy to as
much as 500
percent higher–depending upon the municipality. Other non-crime
issues are also discussed.

Crime, Nuisances Motivate Cities to Regulate the Location of Adult Entertainment Uses

The City of Kent, Washington had similar experiences with the Roadside
Inn Tavern. Prior to its forced closing, the Roadside Inn offered
topless dancing and table dancing in conjunction with its selling of
alcoholic beverages. Kent police investigations conducted in the summer
of 1981 revealed a very high incidence of criminal activity at the
Roadside, related primarily to sex crimes (prostitution) and drug
related offenses. As a result of 57 hours of on-premise investigation,
162 charges were brought against 21 persons by the Kent Police
Department. The report filed by the police stated: “The total time
involved, and the number of charges, break down to a time expenditure
of slightly more than 20 minutes per charge, attesting to the relative
ease by which the subject of prostitution arises within an environment
such as the Roadside.” In September, 1981, the Roadside Inn Tavern was
closed by the City of Kent.

Bothell’s experiences with Mama Hoopah’s in 1982 demonstrated similar
association between the use (an adult dance hall) and the occurrence of
crime. Research by the Bothell Police Department also demonstrated the
regional attraction that such an establishment can have. In one
investigation of the 321 vehicles checked, 8 were registered in Bothell
with most of the remainder from the Puget Sound region, though others
had out of state registration. This is potentially significant in that
nonresidents of an area may be less inhibited in their personal
behavior when away from their community. Nonresidents may also be
unaware of the needs or concerns of residents/owners of areas adjacent
to the adult entertainment use…

Prosperous Minneapolis Commercial Area Blighted by Proliferation of Adult Enterprises
The adult bookstores and theaters which now line Lake Street have
indelibly marked the character of the business community. Once a
prosperous commercial area, East Lake Street now is characterized by
decline and deterioration. Many legitimate businesses have moved out of
the neighborhood and new ones have not replaced them. Business owners
are frightened by the real possibility of business failure. When women
do not feel safe on the streets, they will not come to the stores to
shop. Legitimate businesses do not want to subject their employees,
especially women employees, to harassment from the customers of the
adult bookstores and theaters.

People in this neighborhood are demoralized and increasingly cynical
about the fairness of the political process and of the legal system

Seattle, WA, 1989 (PDF)
Seattle had eight such dance halls (termed “adult cabarets”), six established since 1987…

increased number of cabarets resulted in citizen complaints, including
phone calls, letters (from individuals and merchant associations) and
several petitions with hundreds of signatures. Protests cited decreased
property values; increased insurance rates; fears of burglary,
vandalism, rape, assaults, drugs and prostitution; and overall
neighborhood deterioration. The report noted that patrons of these
cabarets most often are not residents of nearby neighborhoods. Without
community identity, behavior is less inhibited. Increased police calls
to a business, sirens and traffic hazards from police and emergency
vehicles are not conducive to healthy business and residential

Report to the Rome City Commission–Adult Entertainment, Police
Department, City of Rome, Georgia, (March 6, 1995)
This report
includes crime data from the city of La Grange, Georgia… Located in that small suburb of Atlanta, is a three-year-old
“adult nightclub.” In just one year (1994) that single adult-oriented nightclub
generated 141 calls-for-service, with thirty-five of those calls being criminal in nature.
Those crimes included such violent crimes as: eight criminal batteries and eight
aggravated assaults (knives, baseball bats, and firearms with shots fired). The
report also includes many of the other municipal studies articulated elsewhere in this

A Study of Crime and Adult Entertainment, Police Department
Memorandum, City of Tucson, Arizona, (May 11, 1990) (explicit)

In sum, a covert
observational study. Investigating officers found that many of employees of the
adult-oriented businesses were prostitutes who were offering private shows where
customers could, for a price, observe them performing live sex acts. For “the right
price” customers would be allowed to “touch the dancers.” Undercover operatives
also learned that customers could hire the dancers to engage in acts of prostitution,
and in some instances, these acts actually occurred on the premises with the
knowledge of the management. Underage females were also being hired to dance
nude. The report also confirmed many health-related perspectives: Adult
entertainment establishments provide an environment and atmosphere that is
conducive to high risk sexual behaviors and practices with respect to sexually
transmitted diseases (HIV and hepatitis B included).

Secondary Effects Across America: 1977-1999
Austin, TX, 1986: Of 81 license plates traced for owner addresses, only three lived
within one mile of the sexually oriented business; 44 percent were from
outside Austin…

Seattle, WA, 1989: The increased number of cabarets resulted in citizen complaints,
including phone calls, letters (from individuals and merchant
associations) and several petitions with hundreds of signatures.
Protests cited decreased property values; increased insurance rates;
fears of burglary, vandalism, rape, assaults, drugs and prostitution;
and overall neighborhood deterioration. The report noted that patrons
of these cabarets most often are not residents of nearby neighborhoods.
Without community identity, behavior is less inhibited. Increased
police calls to a business, sirens and traffic hazards from police and
emergency vehicles are not conducive to healthy business and
residential environments.

Testimony in Minneapolis: Secondary Effects Around Adult Theaters; Police Suggest that Concerned Citizens Move Away
The police have gone to the Flick and tried to bust it time and time
again. Finally the police in our residence have said, forget it, we are
giving up, nothing has been done. We are not going in there and taking
the chance of having our heads blown off. Us, the people that live in
the neighborhood, we have to fear that day in and day out, especially
the women…

It is a sad case when the police have approached my neighbors and
myself and they said, “The best recourse you have and your husband have
and your children is to get up and move.”

Appeals Court Upholds Daytona Zoning and Public Nudity Ordinances; No
Grandfathering for Lollipop’s Gentlemen’s Club; Rebutting Daniel Linz
(added 7/4/07)
In 1981, after years of increasing urban blight and economic decline, the
City of Daytona Beach adopted various zoning ordinances in an effort to reduce
the perceived secondary effects of adult businesses by limiting the locations where
they could open and operate.[1]…

Langston testified that the blight deterred investment — hotel development ceased in 1975, and in the late 1970’s, Daytona Beach was denominated the “City of Sleaze…”

David Smith, an assistant state attorney who had prosecuted drug and prostitution offenses in Daytona Beach, also testified that “‘most definitely’ there were more drug and prostitution offenses in topless bars than in other bars…”

…the City of Daytona Beach plainly carried its initial burden to show that the three challenged nudity ordinances furthered its interest in reducing the negative secondary effects associated with adult theaters. The City has produced a substantial body of evidence that it reasonably believed to be relevant to combating those problems…

…the City also relied on its own experiences to support its rationale. That legislative history includes: a document describing the difficulties faced by law enforcement in arresting and successfully prosecuting crimes relating to prostitution and pornography and listing arrests for prostitution and other crimes that occurred in or near many Daytona Beach adult businesses; a short memorandum written by the City’s police chief that provides “a partial list of situations, offenses and incidents which have occurred within the areas of topless bar establishments . . . . [that] can be substantiated by police reports and testimony of various police officers”; police dispatch records of calls for service (“CAD data” [“CAD” stands for Computer Automated Dispatch] [22]) from areas around adult businesses from November 1980 to July 1981, which were attached to the police chief’s memorandum; police reports of eighty-three prostitution arrests; police reports of seven arrests for assault and battery of a police officer in or near an adult theater; and the minutes of a public hearing summarizing local business owners’ firsthand accounts of criminal activity in and around adult businesses…

The Ordinance sets forth the following findings: “The appearance of persons in the nude in public places . . . increases incidents of lewd and lascivious behavior, prostitution, sexual assaults and batteries, attracts other criminal activity to the community, encourages degradation of women, and facilitates other activities which break down family structures and values…”

The City also relied on several controlled studies conducted by Dr. William George about the relationship between drinking alcohol and sexual conduct. Thus, for example, one study found that exposure to erotica led male subjects to drink more alcohol than did exposure to non-erotic materials.[27] Another study found that young men who believed they had consumed alcohol — regardless of whether they had in fact done so — displayed greater interest in viewing violent and/or erotic images and reported increased sexual arousal than young men who believed they had not consumed alcohol.[28] Still another study found that study participants perceived a woman they believed had consumed alcohol as being “significantly more aggressive, impaired, sexually available, and as significantly more likely to engage in foreplay and intercourse” than a woman whom study participants believed had not consumed alcohol.[29]…

…many crimes do not result in calls to 911, and, therefore, do not have corresponding records in the City’s CAD data.[31] This is especially true for crimes, such as lewdness[32] and prostitution, that the City sought to reduce by enacting the challenged ordinances…

See Henry Frederick, Police Chief: Spring Break, BCR Hurt Family Tourism, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Apr. 16, 2002 (“‘Youth-oriented street festivals like BCR and Spring Break keep family tourism away.’”); Anne Geggis, Barter on the Beach: Beads for Breasts, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Mar. 24, 2002 (“Daytona Beach police confirm they’ve been seeing more than usual this year — and issuing more $104 tickets for exposure of female breasts than at previous Spring Breaks. . . . ‘Even the chief this (past) weekend witnessed it and moved to make an arrest of a mother and daughter on Atlantic Avenue,’ says [a] spokesman for the Daytona Beach police.” . . . Some are concerned the atmosphere is ripe for an incident like the New York City ‘wilding’ of 2000 during which women’s clothes were torn off their bodies.”); Audrey Parente, BCR ‘Shocking’ for Pennsylvania Sisters, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Apr. 15, 2002, at 6A (“‘I saw guys exposing themselves,’ Miller said. Schubert said she saw ‘. . . women in small clothes — thongs and very exposing bras. . . .’ Worse than the exposure, she said she saw drug use and drug sales. ‘I saw a young man in a car in front of me smoking a joint and passing it from car to car. They were walking around on the road.’”)…

In addition to crimes against persons, crimes against property, and sex crimes, the study that focused on Ordinance 81-334 also analyzed “miscellaneous incidents that share in common that they involve violations of social norms . . . ., includ[ing] drunkenness, disorderly conduct, drug offenses, liquor law violations, and weapons complaints.” (Experts’ Report 27.) The study found a statistically significant increase in these so-called “norm violations” in areas with adult theaters compared to control areas, (id. at 33-34), which could be read to support part of the City’s rationale for Ordinance 81-334. See Ordinance 81-334 § 2 (seeking to reduce “undesirable behavior” and “dangers to the health, safety and welfare of the public”). Similarly, the study that focused on Ordinance 02-496 found a statistically significant increase in drug related offenses in areas with adult theaters compared to control areas. (Experts’ Report 80, 105 tbl.10.)