2017 EXPO | August 27-30

Club Operations Seminar

Expo16 mon_1453-1“The Urban Club Secret”

In several cities across the country—Atlanta, Miami, New York, just to name a few—“urban” clubs are among the most popular adult club venues. But what exactly is making them so successful?  And what are the similarities and differences as they compare to “traditional” clubs?
At EXPO, our panel of “urban club” owners and operators—D.C. Glenn, formerly a DJ at legendary urban club Magic City in Atlanta and former club executive for Strokers, also in Atlanta; Jack Pepper, an industry veteran who now owns Club Babe’s in Atlanta, a club which adopted an urban format in 2012; and Ryan Weaver of the Club Onyx clubs—discussed the differences between their clubs and “traditional” adult nightclubs, why these clubs are so popular, what needs to be considered before any a club adapts a more “urban” format.
Editor’s note: Here, we’ve printed a portion of each speaker’s comments. The Q&A portion of the seminar created a lively discussion, and we will print a portion of the Q&A in the November issue.

Jack-PepperJack Pepper
When Dave [Manack] asked me why I went from a traditional club to an urban one, it was simply a new opportunity. But what I realized was I was color blind. What I didn’t look at is going from a white club to a black club; it was just the opportunity in a new club in the hospitality industry.  Whether you’re at Disney World, or Club Babe’s, or a fancy white club somewhere, the same thing applies: people want to be treated right. They want to feel important. So that was my mission going into Club Babe’s. And I’ll admit it wasn’t coasting on all cylinders when I came in; it was in dire need of some changes. So I’m going to walk you through some of what we did in the two years that I’ve been there which has doubled its sales with the same staff.
We raised the standards there. We got employees to understand that they were going to be supportive of one another. One thing I did, and I don’t know if anyone else has tried this, but I brought in psychologists to do assessments. I needed to know our employees’ capabilities and attributes and their pathos, and the other talents they bring to the table before I pay a guy 50 to 100 grand a year. I want to know what I’m buying. I also put our employees through IQ tests, and it surprised some of them. Some of my managers were at the levels university students. People sometimes live down to what they believe they told that they are. When they were told that they were intelligent, they started living up to that high IQ.  
Next thing we did has we trained something I call QSC. It stands for Quality, Service and Cleanliness. All three are the basic standard of the hospitality industry. You have to raise your standards. You have to elevate your staff. We are ladies and gentleman serving ladies and gentlemen. We upscaled ourselves. We raised our standards to the best of the hospitality standards. And then your customers will change with you. They’ll hold your club to a higher standard.

DC-GlennDC Glenn
I’ve been in the strip game since 1989. I started as a DJ at Magic City in Atlanta. Fast forward three years, one night I went home to write a song about what happens at Magic City on a Friday night and called that song, “Whomp, There It Is” and the rest is history. The funny thing is how many people think that’s the most wholesome song in the world. It’s amazing to me even today. That song is about my friends and me on a Friday night. So I’ve seen a lot in my almost 30 years, but the strip club industry has always been good to me.  
As I got older I realized I needed to be more than just a DJ, so I became at marketing director, or be in charge of our sound system, anything to make myself invaluable to my home club. I became a one-man gang so that anyone would hire me. In 2001 I moved over to the east side of Atlanta to a club called Strokers run by Terry Fisher, and when she retired, I also retired just recently. I had to let the game go because I wanted to take advantage in the strip club game and build an agency that would help other club’s and their SEO, marketing, social networking, email blasting and content creation. We can’t market our clubs like the ways we are used to. Yeah, there are some rules that still apply. A few rules. But in 2016. if you are not on the internet in a big way, and you don’t have your sites optimized, and showing up on the first page of Google, then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.  You know, one of the first things I did when I branched out into marketing reached out to ED’s Club Bulletin Magazine. I knew that if my club wanted to be taken seriously, we had to be in this magazine. For an urban club, that helps tremendously because this sector is not well-known at Expo, and because our club was being featured in the magazine it helps our exposure within the industry tremendously.
Look, as club owners you are aware that bad marketing results in your money being left on the table. As club owners and executives, urban or traditional, we have to adapt to the times to become successful.

Ryan-WeaverRyan Weaver
The Onyx brand was established from the foundation of Rick’s Cabaret, which is great service, respect, and catering to our guests by making them feel like family. The Onyx concept embraced certain elements of the urban club model, mainly the music and the type of entertainers. We were still very much focused on guest relations, but we added elegance to that model, which was instilled by Rick’s Cabaret.
As Jack and DC explained, with urban clubs, social media is critical. I can’t say enough how important it is. More than radio, more than print, social media is essential. But there’s a certain way to do that, because you must be aware of who controls your social media. If it’s the entertainers and employees, then these people are critical. Conveying your club’s standard’s to them is how they will portray the club online. That’s what your customer’s see, no matter what social media platform they’re using.
That’s outreach—but once the guests are in your club, maintaining a higher standard is just as important. For example, my entertainers are required to know our regulars’ favorite drinks; they need to know the names of their favorite entertainers. If your club claims to be upscale, then the biggest proof of that will be reflected in your team.
I’ve been going to clubs since I was 16 years old, I’m 43 now. Back in the day, it seemed like managers were standoffish, keeping themselves to more back-of-the-house stuff. That’s not the case anymore. Managers at Onyx are very upfront and interactive with our guests. Our managers work in unison with our staff. We, as managers, should want to engage all of the guests in some way, to make their experience just a little bit more special. Onyx clubs can now be found in four cities in the U.S. now, known as the most upscale in urban clubs, and we have to maintain that standard.

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