Jon Tevlin
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Last week the Super Bowl Host Committee inadvertently recommended an area “gentleman’s club” — a strip club — on a list of suggested minority- and women-owned enterprises through their NFL Business Connect program. And the nation snickered.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal first caught the free endorsement of the topless joint by the committee, which was apparently unaware that Kladek Inc., owned by Debra Kalsbeck, was a strip club. In fact, a public relations specialist for the Super Bowl seemed quite taken aback by the news.

“Obviously, they should never have been included,” spokeswoman Andrea Mokros told the newspaper.


Good lord, she should have continued, who in their right mind would conflate the nation’s mildly concussive family Sunday ritual with the city’s seedy underbelly?

Strip clubs, that’s who.

Strip clubs love football, and they especially love the Super Bowl. They love it so much that last year they tried to buy into the big event. In 2016, New York City strip club Scores (get it?) wanted to spend $5 million for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl. The network, CBS, sniffed at the deal and said no thanks.

Just as the Minneapolis City Council is meeting Wednesday to come up with a strategy to disrupt sex-trafficking statewide in advance of the big game, the exotic dance industry is ramping up for a bigger surge in business.

Football and strip clubs are historically intertwined. The linkage is not just anecdotal, it is confirmed by none other than the Securities and Exchange Commission filings of the nation’s only publicly traded strip club, or as they like to call it, “nightclub.”

RCI Hospitality Holdings Inc. owns three clubs in Minneapolis: Rick’s Cabaret, Downtown Cabaret and the Seville Club. During an August earnings call, RCI officials positively glowed about their prospects in Minneapolis: “Looking further out, the second quarter fiscal 2018, which is normally a seasonally strong quarter to begin with, could benefit from two events,” they said. “In New York City, the Grammys will be held in January at Madison Square Garden for the first time. That’s near where we have three very popular clubs. And in Minneapolis, the Super Bowl will be held in February at the new downtown stadium for the first time, also near three of our popular clubs there.”

In another report, RCI officials said they were “well positioned to take maximum advantage of the professional football championship being played in our second quarter in the new stadium in downtown Minneapolis.”

The Vikings were pay dirt even last year, when they were 8-8: “Nightclub same-store sales increased by 2.7 percent due to strong performances from units in Minneapolis with the return of the Vikings to their new downtown stadium.”

These clubs are also particularly resilient. According to SEC reports, RCI’s spinoff restaurants, Bombshells, which feature scantily clothed women in camo and bandoleers (nothing says sexy like war gear), were among the first to reopen following devastating hurricanes in Florida and Houston. In boom times like these, exotic dance clubs are cash flow giants.

“RCI Hospitality as a company habitually runs gross margins in the 85 percent range,” reported financial website Seeking Alpha. “This is the kind of heady atmosphere that only software and internet companies typically enjoy.”

In comparison, the typical Olive Garden pulls a 22 percent gross margin, according to Seeking Alpha. But then again, what can you expect when they give you unlimited breadsticks?

A few weeks ago, hours before the Vikings-Packers game, I happened to sit next to two dancers from Rick’s Cabaret at a downtown diner (I was eavesdropping when they told the waiter). One of the women grumbled that she’d be very angry if she didn’t make $1,000 that afternoon because Packers fans “travel well.”

Past reporting suggests a far bigger payday is ahead. The Tampa Tribune quoted one dancer who said she made $6,000 in one day during the Super Bowl there, and the general manager of a Tampa club predicted that revenue would quadruple during the week of the game.

All this just goes to show that you don’t have to love football to reap the benefits of “the People’s Stadium.”