San Antonio strip club lunch bunch comes for the $10 steak special, stays for the chance to socialize – San Antonio Express-News

Emily was eager to share the news of her recent engagement. So shortly after arriving at the table, she excitedly extended her hand to show her three lunch companions the ice on her finger. As her friends oohed and aahed appreciatively, a lithe young woman on a nearby stage gyrated to the thumping beat of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” playing over the strip club’s sound system.

The four friends who make up this semimonthly strip club lunch bunch weren’t completely ignoring the dancer or the music. They appreciate the performers and their “talents.” But after meeting and eating at so-called gentlemen’s clubs for almost five years, they’re good at tuning out the hubbub. The main reason they patronize high-end places like The Palace on Loop 410 is to socialize, enjoy the $10 lunch special and do some day drinking.

“We’re drinking buddies who like to go out and have a good meal and a good time,” said Jackie, one of the four. “And there aren’t many places to do that better than at a strip club.”

The four friends have been coming to strip clubs for so long, they can tune out the hubbub and just enjoy socializing.

The four friends have been coming to strip clubs for so long, they can tune out the hubbub and just enjoy socializing.

Josie Norris/Staff photographer

Men’s clubs have long served lunch specials — most often steak, sometimes seafood or buffets — as a loss leader to appeal to a wider swath of customers, including women, according to The Palace’s operations manager Charlie Longoria.

“It’s like selling clothing,” he said. “If you only sell women’s stuff, you’re only appealing to half the market. It’s the same for us; we want to offer an experience that includes beverages and entertainment, but also a nice lunch. We want to attract as many men and women as possible.”

Other clubs do the same. San Antonio Men’s Club, for example, offers a similar lunch special as The Palace, but for $15, while the steak-and-fries special is $5.99 at Perfect 10 and $8.99 at Sugar’s.  

While Longoria said that social media has helped make going to strip clubs more socially acceptable, the ignominy still remains to an extent. Three of the four friends interviewed for this article — Jackie, Chris and Emily — asked that their last names not be used, fearing it might negatively impact their jobs. Jackie works for a faith-based company, for example, and worries her bosses might take issue with her being identified at a bar drinking, while Chris’ employer recently started monitoring workers’ social media accounts for potential conflicts with the company’s values.

“It’s not the social stigma that concerns me,” he said. “It’s my employer’s knee jerk response that has me hesitant to use my full last name.”

In addition to the daily lunch special, which is served until 4 p.m., The Palace also offers a full menu of everything from wings to seared ahi tuna and grilled shrimp. But it’s the steak special — which includes an 8-ounce New York strip and two sides, all for just a ten-spot, plus the $5 cover charge — that keeps them coming in. Longoria said they sell upwards of 18 to 20 specials a day.

“It’s a pretty good deal for the customer and we make up for it on alcohol sales,” Longoria said.

The four friends have been doing lunch once or twice a month since 2018, using a group text to decide where to meet. While they’ll occasionally invite others to join them, the core group, along with Jackie, Emily and Chris, also includes Eddie Kaufman, 43, who owns a local bar. In addition to Emily’s engagement, today they were also celebrating Chris’ 44th birthday with rounds of Vegas bombs and green tea shots. 

More exotic dancers: San Antonio male stripper could be oldest in the U.S.

The lunch table conversation ranges from what they’d do if they won the Mega Millions to comparisons of the stages at various strip clubs.

The lunch table conversation ranges from what they’d do if they won the Mega Millions to comparisons of the stages at various strip clubs.

Josie Norris/Staff photographer

On this day, all four had the same order: the steak, a mound of mashed potatoes and bracelet-size onion rings. As they dug in, the conversation ranged over a variety of topics. Some, like what they’d do if they won the Mega Millions, wouldn’t sound out of place in line at Luby’s, while others, like their comparing of stages at various strip clubs around town, might raise a few eyebrows.

At one point, Emily explained how she’s been going to clubs like The Palace even before she met this gang. Her introduction to them came following her brother’s wedding in New Orleans when her whole family ended up in a club.

“I was like, oh, this is a really fun and not the perverted environment I thought it was,” said the 30-year-old who works in medical billing while also studying cyber security. “It kind of destigmatized them for me.”

But, she added, she’s yet to get her fiancé to join her on one of her strippers-and-steak lunches. 

“He’s a little shy, and he’s never been to a strip club before,” she said, adding with a laugh, “Maybe for our bachelor and bachelorette parties we’ll go as a couple.” 

Kaufman said he doesn’t understand the aversion to strip clubs, noting that they’re more controlled than a typical bar.

“My bar gets inspected by the health department only once a year,” he said. “Here, there’s always someone coming in to look around. Vice, the health department. The city keeps a really close eye on these clubs.”

More about strip clubs: This strip club sold more alcohol than any other San Antonio bar in 2022

Indeed, San Antonio law is very strict about how much skin a dancer can show, more so than in much of the rest of the state. In Austin, for example, dancers can be totally nude, while here, areolas must be completely covered and dancers have to wear full bikini-style bottoms. Curiously, they’re also prohibited from removing their shoes while dancing. 

“It’s ridiculous, but that’s how strict the city is” Longoria said. 

Jackie chats with friends during a late lunch at The Palace men's club recently. She said she feels safer and more comfortable at a strip club than at a regular bar.

Jackie chats with friends during a late lunch at The Palace men’s club recently. She said she feels safer and more comfortable at a strip club than at a regular bar.

Josie Norris/Staff photographer

The tight controls make the clubs feel safer, according to Jackie, 31.

“The men here aren’t staring at you, bothering you and trying to hit on you,” she said. “I feel more comfortable in a strip club than I do in a regular bar.”

Chris is a software engineer and a college professor. While he’s enjoying his steak, he contemplates whether he’ll go back to work afterward.

“Normally what will happen is I’ll take the afternoon off work and just come hang out,” he said. “This’ll be it for the day.”

But the friends don’t ignore the dancers completely. Jackie and Emily say they’ll occasionally chat up the girls when they come around to the tables — and they will. Chris takes a different perspective.

“I’m not a big like lap dance person, but we do occasionally critique the dancers’ performances,” he said. “We’ve all become pretty much connoisseurs of pole work and Emily usually admires how fit some of the girls are.”

One dancer’s back-length tattoo, for example, caught the whole table’s attention.

“It’s so cool,” said Jackie, admiringly. 

rmarini@express-news.net | Twitter: @RichardMarini

 

Original News Source Link