Statewide organizing / lobbying assoc.
We reached out to each active statewide association to get an update on their latest activity, upcoming meetings and more. These are the states who responded with fresh updates.
FL SEA, like most of the nation, watched the 2018 November elections with great anticipation. The Sunshine State potentially had an opportunity to “go blue” for the first time in almost 60 years but fell short of that goal and remains, predominately, in Republican control. Broward and Palm Beach Counties caught national flack for their voting results delays and discovering thousands of ballots post election.
Alas, order was restored, ballots counted and whether or not justice prevailed is matter of opinion among the voters. Palm Beach was also the scene of another potentially business-leveling ordinance when there was talk of limiting the hours of alcohol sales. Talk turned into agendas and agendas blossomed into meetings. Club operators called SEA, lawyers, and lobbyists. More conference calls. More panic. More grumblings about the machinations of politics and the absurdity of it all.
Luke Lirot, SEA Advisory, attended the first Palm Beach meeting and had experts on standby. Angelina Spencer, SEA ED had the local studies and lobbyists ready to go. In the end, it took one friendly phone call to inquire where this was headed: nowhere. And that’s exactly where it went.
Three COAST meetings are on the horizon for late January-February in Tampa, Miami and Orlando areas. It is hoped we’ll also be able to host a meeting in the Palm Beach area too.
We’re all watching Joe Redner, owner of Mons Venus and FL SEA Member, along with his attorney Luke Lirot, kick ass in Tallahassee for Florida voters, on the marijuana referendum lawsuit. Joe, as a stage four lung cancer patient is fighting for the right to grow his own medicine and also to be issued a medical dispensary license under FloriGro, a company he’s invested with. Thus far, the courts have ruled in his favor.
As we gear up for the 2019 session, we don’t really see this industry as a main target for the next couple of years but one never knows. The moment you lay down your guard is usually the moment you’re sucker punched with a sin tax or accused of being problem number-one for sex trafficking (actually, according to federal and NGO data, the number-one problem for sex trafficking is the internet and number two is the Florida hotel industry, but they have a bigger lobby).
Our problems may be larger on the periphery when it comes to healthcare coverage, lawsuits and “fees” to cover victim services. In attending events or speaking with elected officials, lobbyists and concerned constituents report to SEA that limited government, in the form of some deregulation that helps small businesses, particularly transportation industries, or a bill that clears up convoluted regulatory laws, is on the horizon. Spencer will be in Tallahassee for a few client Lobby Days this year, and also meeting with colleagues there, all of which promise to be interesting.
Michigan (ACE of Michigan)
ACE of Michigan, the state’s pioneering adult nightclub association for 19 years, hosted a star-studded membership meeting at Jacoby’s in Detroit on Nov. 14. The featured speakers were five of the state’s top adult nightclub executives: Bo Wilhelm, GM of DG’s – Lincoln Park and Déjà Vu Showgirls – Ypsilanti; Eddie Rice, DG’s AGM; Stephen Titus, the owner of Vegas Strip Gentlemen’s Club in Battle Creek; Paul Ratliff, Vegas Strip’s GM and Shaun Vora, manager of Kalamazoo’s Déjà Vu Showgirls and Little Darlings.
The five conducted a spirited discussion on two related topics critical to club operators everywhere: How to motivate entertainers and employees and how to build and maintain teams within a club.
The speakers received high praise from the attendees of the November membership meeting. ACE of Michigan member Karl Jones, a banker with no previous hospitality or adult entertainment experience, bought Sensations Nightclub in Grand Rapids two years ago. Several months before that, he reached out to ACE of Michigan Executive Director Larry Kaplan for advice on his new venture. Kaplan put Jones together with Scott Ellis, Executive Director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA), ACE Michigan’s influential strategic partner and the two helped Jones navigate his transition. Since opening, Jones has attended nearly every ACE of Michigan meeting, including this one and two Gentlemen’s Club Expos.
“As a new owner, I get the benefit of going to meetings and EXPOs and learning from the experience of other club owners and managers who’ve already done this; I don’t need to come up with a better idea,” Jones said. “I am able to pick the brains of established, successful operators and incorporate some of the best ideas into expanding our business and making us more successful.”
Jones added, “The five speakers at the November meeting were absolutely helpful. With my lack of industry experience, it’s been learn-on-the-go. Even though I have a seasoned staff, having the ability to interact with other owners as a resource, and to see what they’re doing in all areas of the business is extremely helpful.”
Avenue Gentlemen’s Club (formerly Potter’s Pub) in Jackson, which has operated since 1970, is one of Michigan’s oldest adult nightclubs. Avenue’s co-owner and ACE of Michigan member for 19 years, Kris Minix, enjoyed the November meeting.
“I got a lot out of it,” explained Minix, who has 32 years of industry experience. “After all these years, I realize maybe my way of doing things isn’t the best way anymore. I want to pick up new ways of operating, going into the future. Stephen, Bo, Eddie, Paul and Shaun are all very successful and each shared great information.”
Featured speaker Bo Wilhelm, an industry veteran of 25 years, has long been a supporter of ACE of Michigan but was unfortunately employed until recently by clubs without the foresight to join the Michigan trade group.
Kaplan has known Wilhelm for at least 23 years, since he was a sharp up-and-coming manager at Subi’s in Southgate. It was clear even then that Wilhelm was going places.
“I think ACE of Michigan is amazing,” explained Wilhelm. I’ve been an ACE supporter for all of its 19 years and I feel it’s my duty to communicate its tremendous value to clubs that are unaware, so as to push ACE of Michigan forward, for everybody’s benefit. If clubs really understood what ACE does, they would be 100% behind it.
“I’ve learned from you and the old timers and attorney Brad Shafer and I pick up great tips at the annual Expo panels,” Wilhelm continued. “Now it’s my turn to pass that knowledge on to this next generation.”
Wilhelm says, if not for ACE of Michigan meetings, he would likely not have met and developed a tremendous friendship with his fellow speaker, Vegas Strip owner Stephen Titus.
“Now, when Stephen or I need something, we can call each other,” Wilhelm says. “We are all in the same business. There’s no reason we can’t work together to solve problems. We don’t have to share trade secrets to help one another.”
“Something goes through my mind whenever I go to an ACE of Michigan meeting or the annual Gentlemen’s Club EXPO,” explained Titus. “I’m with the top people in my industry. At an ACE meeting, I may not know everybody, but I know I’m sitting with people who give a damn about what they’re doing.”
Titus continued, “The more every operator puts effort into running each of their clubs right, the more money every club makes. I’ll support ACE of Michigan in any way I can. ACE has been a tremendous value for me. I’ve gotten eight or ten dollars of value back for every dollar it’s cost me. I feel like I’m part of something with the camaraderie that’s developed between me and numerous ACE members. Among them, Bo and many others in the Déjà Vu group have made me feel like family, though I’m not part of their organization. Karl Jones and Kris Minix and others always welcome my calls. And that came about because ACE of Michigan Executive Director Larry Kaplan organized the meetings and events and brought us all together. Now, when I have a problem to solve, I have other smart operators I can reach out to.”
Special thanks to our stellar speakers, Bo Wilhelm, Eddie Rice, Stephen Titus, Paul Ratliff and Shaun Vora, manager of Déjà Vu Showgirls. Additional thanks to Shaun Vora for working with ACE of Michigan to develop the highly successful format and agenda for the current series of membership meetings.
New Jersey (NJHEA)
As of Dec. 8th, 2018, ACE of New Jersey is tracking seven bills which pertain to adult nightclubs. ACE of New Jersey tracks all bills four times a day, which contain a search word which would be found in an adult cabaret bill or SOB.
ACE of New Jersey found words in our search list that we needed to read and review, to ensure it is not a bill which affects our industry. This does not include the seven bills which are of an adult nature, and ACE of New Jersey tracks and follows the bills movements.
Tip Wage Act/Under Minimum Wage (1) -we found the minimum wage in NJ will go up to $15 per hour. A-15 posted on 12/6/2018.
Sex- (3) S3253 12/06/2018 Job applicants’ gender-proh. inquiry S3261 12/06/2018 Isolated Confinement Restriction Act. These are not billed which pertain to our industry.
Pole Tax- (3) A3699 12/06/2018 Out-of-St. emp.-excludes cert. taxes S2518 12/06/2018 Out-of-St. emp.-excludes cert. S3268 12/06/2018 Sch. constr. responsibilities-concerns. These bills do not pertain to our industry
This is the reason why ACE of New Jersey must read and review bills that contain any of our search words. If all these bills are not read we could miss one and that would have a most negative outcome.
As of Dec. 8, there are no new bills, or legislation, on the state or local levels, which would harm adult entertainment facilities in Pennsylvania.
Industry alert: I received information this week, from several of our Pennsylvania Members, that Bank of America (BOA) advised them in writing, that due to the nature of their business, adult nightclubs, BOA asked them to close all their accounts. These accounts have been open for decades, and in good standing. When Wells Fargo bought Wachovia Bank, Wells Fargo advised many adult nightclub owners that they needed to close all their business and personal accounts and these owners had to pay back any loans which were outstanding. If you have received a letter from your bank, advising that you must close all your accounts, due to the nature of your business, please let me know.
Bill Tracking: Bill Tracking is conducted four times a day, five days a week, to ensure, no bill or legislation goes undetected, which could harm our industry. News articles (online and print) in Pennsylvania and from around the country, which are hundreds each week, are read and reviewed, seven days a week, to ensure there is no other information which could harm our industry—or, to find information which could be helpful to the PHEA.
The PHEA uses key search words, to detect bills which may harm our industry in Pennsylvania. The PHEA, also depends on other sources and relationships, which have been developed over the last 12 years to identify if there is any information which seeks to impose negative challenges, upon the gentlemen’s club industry in the state of Pennsylvania.
Members are notified immediately, should a bill be detected that could harm our industry.
Instantaneous action is taken to stop the bill from proceeding, once identified. The PHEA will use all our available resources to prevent a bad bill from becoming a bad law.
This includes: attorneys, expert witnesses, academic peer reviewed and published studies, and reports.