Tampa plans to sack lap dancing
By KATHRYN WEXLER
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 9, 2001
TAMPA -- Super Bowl XXXV may not be Tampa's only showdown in coming weeks.
Club owners have their own game plan: ignore police and showcase Tampa's famous -- or infamous -- attraction to a national audience. They're launching Super Bowl-related promotions and drafting extra dancers for 24-hour bump and grind.
"The Super Bowl is just an incredible celebration of all things American, as it should be," said Larry Wolfe, owner of the Seven Seas on Kennedy Boulevard. He counts his business as one of the country's blessings, "like Apple pie."
But Tampa police warn that multisquad raids and arrests are all in store for lap dancers and their customers -- whoever they are.
"If you're a football player, whatever, if you're going to do it, you're going to be taking a trip" -- and not to the concession stand, said Tampa police Detective Bret Bartlett.
Tampa Mayor Dick Greco is equally adamant.
"Every law gets enforced all the time. What difference does it make during Super Bowl?"
The Police Department intends to put National Football League executives on notice about the rigorous enforcement.
"We're going to try to have a liaison so the coaches know, if you don't want to have your quarterback come up AWOL at game time . . . ," said Bartlett, one of two detectives assigned to the Police Department's adult entertainment unit.
But the tough talk doesn't appear to be cowing club owners, who stand to make more money in the days leading to the Super Bowl than during all the year's holidays put together.
"It's always bad news when those kind of things happen," Wolfe said upon learning from a reporter Monday that police intend to clamp down on lap dancing.
"But people in our business are known for manning the barricades and digging in," he said. "I think we're in the forefront of individual liberties in this country."
A panel of six Hillsborough County judges has yet to rule collectively on challenges to the December 1999 city ordinance that requires dancers stay 6 feet from customers. Lawyers say it is overly broad, improperly adopted and contradicts state law.
Judge Manuel Lopez said he doesn't expect a ruling before the Super Bowl, Jan. 28. Betting that the courts will come down on their side, many clubs still offer lap dances.
Joe Redner, owner of the nude club Mons Venus, said that until a court tells him otherwise, the lap dance will continue.
"We have never complied with the ordinance, not for one second," said Redner, who has paid legal fees for employees and customers arrested for violating the ban.
There have been about 200 such arrests since the Tampa City Council unanimously passed the ordinance. It carries a maximum $1,000 fine and six-month jail sentence.
Bartlett said he and his partner cannot enforce the ordinance every time they see it flouted because they need more than two officers to make an arrest in clubs where passions could ignite a fight. The last time they arrested anyone for a lap dance violation was in early November.
"It's a safety issue," he said. "I need at least uniformed cops or lots of guys in RAID jackets to back me up. When I get myself a handful of officers, we're going to charge them."
Raids are being planned around the time of the Super Bowl, he said. "That's our intent."
Bartlett said he doesn't know of any clubs that have closed because of the lap dance ban. About a dozen in the city, more in the county, feature lap dancing.
Meanwhile, local magazine V2, an advertisement vehicle for adult clubs and service, is showcasing certain "Bowl Babes" on its current cover. Brian Rouleau, executive director of operations for a company that owns a couple dozen strip clubs in several states, including some in Tampa, said they're hiring dancers from as far away as Atlanta and putting them up in local hotels to bolster ranks at Pony Tails, Gold Rush, Pink Pony and Diamond's the week of the Super Bowl. Cover charges will jump $5 or $10, he said.
Starting the Wednesday before the big game, Mons Venus will be open for business 24 hours a day, Redner said.
Boasted Rouleau: "It's the most exciting extravaganza of adult entertainment ever showcased in the Tampa area."
- Staff writer David Karp contributed to this report. Kathryn Wexler can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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