Forced Out by Baseball, Whither the Strip Club?
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
From behind his desk at his club a few blocks south of the Capitol, Ron Hunt ponders the future. He's playing simultaneous online poker games, brown eyes darting between dueling screens, his face illuminated by the white glow. Every few minutes, the computers make sounds like clinking chips. Between moves, he drags on his Newport and exhales frustration.
"This ain't no raunchy business," Hunt says. "There's actually human beings here who are worried about what's going to happen."
He picks up his phone. "Tell Sasha, Visage and Chyna Doll to come up here, please."
A 28-year-old woman appears in clear Lucite high heels and false eyelashes. "Chyna Doll," from Woodbridge, is one of Hunt's original employees, with seven years under her garter belt as a stripper.
"I want to be in a place where I'm respected," she tells a visitor. "Like, they don't really even call us 'strippers' here. We're 'dancers' and 'entertainers.' "
Unfortunately for Chyna and Hunt, "here" has an expiration date.
Ron Hunt's strip club -- a fixture for 21 years -- must move by December. The warehouse that houses the Nexus Gold Club, just north of the planned baseball stadium in Southeast, has been sold for about $8 million to make way for river-view luxury condos.
The real problem is: Where to?
In a fast-gentrifying city such as Washington, where can strip clubs go? The club's current neighborhood of rubble-filled lots and barbed-wire fences was one of the few that allowed them, but with the impending stadium boom, it has been rezoned. Hunt couldn't so much as move across the street, even if he could afford the surging real estate prices.
"Not only is there no place to move within the zone, but the zone has disappeared," said Michael Fonseca, Hunt's attorney.
And Hunt is fuming. "I have proven in the worst neighborhood I can make this happen," he said. "I've operated for years without incident. My food is even good. . . . Doesn't that allow me to graduate to downtown?"
He pays his taxes and is a regular at community meetings. He drove the drug dealers off his street and gives turkeys to the needy at Thanksgiving. The police inspector calls him a good neighbor. He employs about 50 full-time workers.