It was bound to happen. Despite the pandemic, strip clubs have found a way to bring customers back in, while keeping bartenders, servers, and entertainers employed.
Enter the drive-through strip club, where you can order a burger and beer from your car, while performers dance with masks on behind a barricade. There are now at least a couple of these joints in the U.S., including Lucky Devil Lounge in Portland, Oregon, and Vivid Gentleman’s Club, in Houston.
Strip club employees are particularly vulnerable in the midst of the pandemic-induced recession. As The Cut reported, dancers at these venues are effectively gig workers. They don’t earn an hourly wage, nor do they have benefits or paid time off. They rely entirely on tips. And these earnings dried up when strip clubs had to close during state-mandated lockdowns.
These venues aren’t eligible for assistance from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. In fact, strip clubs seem to be very specifically excluded, since applicants are asked to confirm that they do not “present live performances of a prurient sexual nature.” And as states began easing restrictions, strip clubs struggled to reopen in accordance with regulations, since they involve close contact between employees and patrons.
But some club owners have tried to get creative. Lucky Devil Lounge reopened in April and pivoted to food delivery, having dancers deliver the food in person. Then it created a drive-through format, in which customers could pick up food while watching dancers on either side. Depending on how busy it is, patrons can stay for a single song or several. While some dancers said they were still concerned about their safety, most at Lucky Devil told The Cut they felt good about the protocols in place. At the Vivid Gentleman’s Club, which just reopened, there is now a large white tent where every car can stay for two songs while their food is being prepared, according to the Houston Chronicle.
For many of the dancers, the drive-through version of the strip club has been a lifeline, giving them some income during this time. Lucky Devil dancers can make between $150 and $200 per shift (although that’s significantly less than a standard night at the club), according to Cosmopolitan. The dancers said they’ve taken the new digs as an opportunity to experiment with new costumes and different skills. It’s been so much fun, they said, the owner is thinking about doing drive-through pop-ups even after lockdown ends and we can all get up close and personal again.