Strip clubs now of­fer­ing a more teas­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY STEFANO ESPOSITO, STAFF REPORTER ses­pos­ito@sun­times.com | @sle­spos­ito

When the Ad­mi­ral The­atre re­opens Fri­day, the strip club will do so with a teeny bit of false ad­ver­tis­ing.

Strictly speak­ing, the women won’t be “to­tally nude.” They’ll have a flimsy piece of ma­te­rial draped across their faces. Sam Cecola, the venue’s owner for the last 31 years, isn’t overly con­cerned.

“The mask only cov­ers her face, and many of the guests might not be look­ing at her face,” Cecola said.

And one shouldn’t over­look the abil­ity of the hu­man mind to “fill in the blank with per­fec­tion,” he said.

A visit to a strip club has al­ways been some­thing of an il­lu­sory ex­pe­ri­ence — and even more so now with coro­n­avirus re­stric­tions in place. Un­der Illi­nois’ Phase 4 of the re­open­ing, which be­gan in late June, dancers and cus­tomers must re­main 6 feet apart “at all times.”

That means “pri­vate dances,” as

Cecola calls them, will be a lot less pri­vate.

“In the next cou­ple of days, we’ve got girls com­ing in,” Cecola said. “We’re go­ing to do a dry run with some of the em­ploy­ees act­ing as cus­tomers to see how we can en­ter­tain peo­ple and still stay safe.”

But if you’re not get­ting an ac­tual lap dance, shouldn’t you get a dis­count?

“A dis­count? Ab­so­lutely not,” Cecola said. “We’re hav­ing a hard enough time per­suad­ing en­ter­tain­ers to come back to work wear­ing th­ese masks and face shields and things like that.”

In any case, many cus­tomers come to the Ad­mi­ral for the “con­ver­sa­tion,” he said.

“Older good peo­ple like my­self, maybe they want to talk to a young girl be­cause they haven’t talked to a young girl in a so­cial way like that for 20 years,” he said. “It’s al­most like a psy­chol­o­gist’s visit.”

Cecola said he plans to bring back about 40 of his 100 or so dancers — at least at first.

Heav­enly Bod­ies in Elk Grove Vil­lage has been open for about two weeks. Even though the venue de­pends to a large ex­tent on cus­tomers ar­riv­ing from nearby O’Hare Air­port, de­mand re­mains strong, said Gigi Gayle, Heav­enly Bod­ies’ pub­lic re­la­tions man­ager.

Ev­ery­one in­side the venue must wear a mask, and tem­per­a­tures are taken at the door.

But the thing that makes busi­ness a chal­lenge is the 25% ca­pac­ity rule, Gayle said.

“There are nights when we have a line out­side, and we have to wait for other cus­tomers to leave ... and then you have to do the ro­ta­tion of hav­ing them leave ev­ery two hours,” she said, adding that most cus­tomers are peo­ple who’ve been com­ing to the venue for years.

As for the masks: “There’s kind of an al­lure to that,” Gayle said. “Some­times it’s a lit­tle sexy or a lit­tle kinky to not di­rectly have to look at some­one’s face.”

SUN-TIMES FILE

The Ad­mi­ral The­atre on Lawrence Av­enue is ten­ta­tively set to re­open Fri­day af­ter the coro­n­avirus shut­down.

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