Why Atlanta Is the Strip Club Capital of America
People from everywhere -- excluding Atlanta -- might tell you that Atlanta doesn’t have the best strip clubs in the world. These liars are liars. ATL is at the top of the food chain, if the food chain ends in boobs and booty cheeks (and FYI, it does, but that’s a whole ‘nother theory). When it comes to Washington Showers and the art of rain-making, Atlanta might as well be Seattle... with much, much better strip clubs. Here’s why:
Aside from one or two spots that will not be named, all strip clubs in ATL are clothes-less from the rooter to the tooter. Do you know how many cities claim to have “strip clubs” that don’t legally allow dancers to strip past their underwear if alcohol is sold there? This, in ATL, is unfathomable. Let’s be honest; while it’s sexy to hold something back in normal interactions between men and women, in a strip club it is heresy. What the hell is the point?
In some cities, the most you can hope for is a spirited spin around the pole, or a well-gripped pole-climb and mid-air suspension. In Atlanta you get clapping (without hands), chopsticks, banana-splits, “p-popping” (while upside-down in a full-on handstand), full-split twerking, and everyone’s favorite -- surfboarding.
Quantity and quality
Nobody knows the exact count of clubs, because you have to consider certain people’s homes if we’re being fair, but it’s safe to say more than 30. You’re never far from one, whether you’re Downtown (Magic City!), in Buckhead (Pink Pony!), Norcross (Oasis!), Decatur (Pin-Ups!), Stone Mountain (Strokers!), Chamblee (Follies!), Midtown (Cheetah!), Southwest Atlanta (Blue Flame!), or even Lithia Springs (Club Babes!). Let’s compare that to Portland, where there are supposedly 50 or more strip clubs. Some people might argue that this matters, and that a weird, Pacific Northwest thong of a city defeats ATL in the proverbial pole-fight for the crown. Ha! HAHAHA! No. Those people are wrong.
I understand why Portland would need lots of strip clubs. That speaks more about the level of depression Portland has to guard against developing due to life in Oregon. Apparently there’s even a vegan strip club in Portland! As if that shit’s even cool. If you’re there for any other reason than to look at what Soulja Boy calls “Booty Meat,” you’re clearly in the wrong place. Portland is famous for Nike, craft beer, irony, and decent beards, not booty. If Portland, or other cities that reportedly have more strip clubs per capita than Atlanta (Tampa, Miami... Fayetteville, NC for God’s sake) actually had strip clubs as phenomenal as ATL, they’d have a culture that the rest of us would’ve heard about by now. But you don’t hear about that hot new dance coming out of Portland. You don’t remember that wild rapper from Tampa, because Tampa rappers can’t get strippers to dance to their music. And while Miami is the next best thing, you still have spots down there where you can’t even get a lap dance outside VIP, and with cover charges hovering around $50, you can bet how much more that’s going to run you. All for what? Blue balls. That’s what.
It ain’t about some per capita sum of strip clubs. I can tell you, as a native of Huntsville, Alabama, that Huntsville has a handful of strip clubs, and the locals LOVE them. That doesn’t make a single one of them good. I remember walking into a Huntsville strip club years ago, and the first thing I saw after passing security was a disproportionately large exotic shoe-model, sitting on a circular counter stool with her back to me, consuming an entire pizza. For self. The moral? Never assume that numerous strip clubs in a weird city is a good thing. And never do strip clubs in Huntsville.
If you think it’s taboo, you haven’t had the lamb lollipops, duck l’orange, or blackened lobster tail at the marble chef’s table at Alluvia, overlooking the main room of Cheetah. And honestly, you shouldn’t be in Alluvia if you’re not getting a table dance at Cheetah, but it’s not like the food isn’t good enough to use that excuse. That’s the high end; on the low, you can find great wings, late-night breakfast and free afternoon buffets at places like Onyx, Magic City, and Follies. Southern cuisine, in all its fried goodness, is plentiful, and probably 10x-better than what you could find in New York, for 10x-less. And with a side order of way more booty.
Community and societal good
Did you know that Magic City, the most famous strip club in the world (King of Diamonds be damned), collected donations, food, and clothing for victims of Hurricane Katrina? According to their website they’ve also organized Thanksgiving meals and Christmas toy drives every year since 1992, and quietly donate annually to cancer research foundations. Babes, on Fulton Industrial, has casino night events they say benefit an organization that keeps young girls out of the sex trade, providing interventions, safe housing, and scholarships. Sure, it could all be a bunch of butt-naked lies, but you have to imagine that there are people in the government who would love to score political points by calling strip clubs on those kind of bluffs. It’s probably not worth the risk. Unless of course government officials can be paid off with lap dances.
Contribution to the local culture of acceptance
It’s totally normal for anybody to patronize Atlanta strip clubs. The dancers in other cities undoubtedly do it for the money, but do they also do it for the culture? Atlanta dancers tend to make careers out of stripping -- word to the immortal Blondie of Clermont Lounge. That’s not only because they get rich, but also because there’s no stigma attached to dancers in Atlanta. People realize that not many women get into dancing because of ambition. Believe it or not, your dancer would probably prefer doing something else. But if you’re cool, then she might be cool, which makes the whole premise cool, even to those who don’t quite get it.
Wives don’t trip when their husbands say they’re headed to strip clubs with friends, because as far as they’re concerned, you might as well be going to a Falcons game, or church. It sounds crazy, but the same crowd will probably be joining you there. Don’t even ask how many major business deals that have impacted the city and beyond were probably closed at an Atlanta strip club that stayed open late and provided alcohol, music, entertainment, and dinner in one place. ATL isn’t concerned about putting anybody down for what they do. You get it how you live when you’re in The City Too Busy Twerking to Hate.
I’ll end with a fact that might surprise you: I’ve never been a fan of strip clubs, even though to a degree I owe strip clubs credit for the development of my editorial career. Back in 2005 I worked as a writer in print journalism, which, for most writers, was the media’s equivalent to being a stripper. I somehow ended up accepting a job as editor-in-chief of a magazine called Xcitement, which came with a media credential badge that was honored by every strip club in town, and permission to be one of the only guys you ever saw in a strip club with a camera. Prior to that job, I dated a girl in college who became a dancer, which gave me access to the locker room when picking her up or dropping her off. Both of these situations gave me a behind-the-scenes view I imagine, with full awareness of the comparative pun, could only be understood by someone working in a sausage factory. It’s just not my thing to give a woman money for dancing naked in front of me. I say that knowing I’m in the minority in real life, but solidly in the mainstream when it comes to what lying dudes tell their partners.
That said, I don’t have a problem defending strip clubs as an enterprise in the same way I would defend, say, gambling. These vice-based industries wouldn’t exist if the world wasn’t a supermarket of self-indulgence. Far be it from me to tell people how to get satisfaction or waste their money. But if you’re gonna do it, do it in Atlanta. We the best!
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Mike Jordan, Thrillist ATL’s founding editor, was once editor-in-chief of Xcitement Atlanta, and was everybody in ATL’s best friend for about six months. Ask him anything about your favorite Atlanta strip club at @michaelbjordan.