Bunnyjuice founders Benton Wong and Tod Guenther.
// Photos by Joseph Eastburn
Today, however, competitive pressure in the sex industry has led to variety — and in Oregon, that variety comes with a distinctly Portlandia flavor. But first, some background: Oregon has earned a national, if dubious, reputation as a strip-club mecca, one that is good at delivering supply to a base demand. The state is second in clubs per capita, while Portland is first in strip clubs amongst the 50 largest U.S. cities — 9 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Strip clubs are a fantastically lucrative U.S. business segment, expected to take in $7.8 billion in 2013, according to market-research firm IBISWorld. And in Oregon, the free-speech guarantee in the state constitution is broader than the federal First Amendment, and several consecutive rulings by the Oregon Supreme Court continue to uphold our right not only to say and write what we want, but also to bare all, either on city streets à la the World Naked Bike Ride or in exotic dance locales around the state.
The result is a diverse and expanding array of offerings. The Portland Metro area, for example, sports a vegan strip club (Casa Diablo); juice-bar strip clubs marketing to the under-21 crowd (such as Jiggles in Tualatin); the nearly 60-year-old Mary’s Club, in business since 1954; and even Stripperoke, combining strippers with patrons singing karaoke (Devils Point).
“I thought it had potential — let’s make it friendly for everybody, throw some parties, and, oh, yeah, we also have naked girls onstage,” says Shon Boulden, 35, part-owner of Devils Point. In 2008 Boulden converted what was previously a simple dive bar at the Devil’s Point location in Southeast Portland into a strip club — expressly to avoid closure, he says.
At Devils Point, naked fire dancers were initially the novelty helping the club stay competitive. Outlawed in 2011 by new fire regulations, fire dancers were supplanted by Stripperoke, and the combination of stripping women with customers belting out popular tunes has earned Devils Point national notoriety.
The media attention has also helped attract a new clientele — women. “A lot of times you’ll see just as many females sitting at the ‘rack’ [clubs’ stage-side seating] as you do males,” Boulden says, adding that the formula for making money at these businesses hasn’t changed — alcohol sales and tips to dancers drive profits and income. Nevertheless, “Devils Point is not predominantly a male-oriented place.”