The Show-Me State Asks Strippers to Show Less


As she slips on her clear heels and steps onto the stage, "Sally" is a fantasy in the flesh.

But off the pole, she's a Missouri mother of four whose life is a constant hustle.

"My daughters model, dance, you know, soccer," Sally said. "And then my boys -- football you know, if I worked a regular job, there's no way I could do those things. ... A lot of the [strippers] are, that's what's funny, a lot of the girls are moms and they live a normal life."

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A normal life for now -- but that could soon change. Strippers in the Show-Me State are about to show a lot less, thanks to a law to go into effect Aug. 28 that puts the toughest regulations on adult businesses in the country.

State Sen. Matthew Bartle has spent the past eight years, crusading against what he calls smut shops, places he says spawn prostitution, drugs and other crime. He said that in his perfect world, all the establishments would be out of business.

Bartle's law bans full nudity and alcohol sales. It forces clubs to close at midnight, keeps customers at least 6 feet from the stage and bans touching between the dancers and the customers.

"I think [the clubs] are places that deepen stereotypes about women and are degrading to women," Bartle said. "I know there are many that disagree with me, I've heard all the arguments, it's art and this, that and the other. That's the choice I make. The lawmaking was focused on, what are the ripple effects from having these businesses in our communities?"

Club Owners Prepare Suit

Dick Bryant represents a group of club owners, preparing to sue the state. He says Bartle's "ripple effects" are a myth.

"This is no role for government," Bryant said. "Regardless of whether you like it or not, it's not the role for government to be saying what's moral, what's immoral.

"This is a legislator imposing his will on the citizens of the state. No one is being required to come into adult entertainment facilities. People aren't forced in off the street, they're not dragged into these places. The businesses blend into the community. Kansas City was studied a few years ago, and ... they couldn't demonstrate one place where there was a decreased value, increased crime or a problem caused by the presence of the business."

Missouri Strippers: Tax Revenue Loss

Dick Snow has run Bazooka's Showgirls for the last three decades. The new restrictions will force him to close.

"We're an established Kansas City business," Snow said. "It's just amazing to us that suddenly we're an illegal business. ... I mean, most of our business is between 10:30 and 3 a.m., so it just takes the sails right out of our business. And it's done on purpose. I mean, there's no other reason to do that. I don't understand the justification for closing at midnight. I never heard a decent justification for that except to destroy the business."

Having to close his business, Snow said, would mean putting 145 people -- from the doorman to the DJ to the hostesses to, of course, the dancers -- out of work.

"All my employees are very worried, yeah," said Snow. "Not only are my employees worried, but their spouses are worried. I mean, these are the paychecks that pay the mortgage and buy the groceries and make the car payment."

These businesses employ about 3,000 people across Missouri, and generate millions in state taxes.

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