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Monday, February 4, 2008

Ohio's strip joints lost their fight with downstate kooks, and now they're broke

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2008 at 5:18 AM

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It appears the fight for nakedness can get very expensive
Fighting the Forces of Kookiness is an expensive battle. And now that those forces have claimed victory, it appears the good guys – the ones who fought gallantly for your right to see naked ladies – really don’t feel like paying up. Our saga began last year, when state lawmakers, under pressure from downstate conservatives, passed a bill limiting strip clubs’ ability to serve their patented patchouli-scented entertainment. Unable to properly bribe the law off the books, Ohio’s strip-club owners launched a campaign to put the new law before voters. And they enlisted nearly every species of high-priced operative: lobbyists, consultants, pollsters, lawyers, and PR gurus. All they needed was a tax guy to start an All-Suit Team... But their effort failed. They couldn’t collect enough signatures. The measure didn’t make the ballot, and law took effect last September, ruining a President’s Day party Punch had been planning for months. And then, suddenly, the money dried up. Last month, the campaign’s treasurer – who works for the strip-club’s Columbus lobbyist, Neil Clark -- fired an email to club owners, outlining the debts owed by the campaign. They total $127,000, owed to pollsters, lawyers, a former Plain Dealer reporter who did PR for the campaign, and Clark himself. “These people all took on this task because I told them they would get paid,” says Clark. He says their work was approved by the campaign’s committee, the very club owners who’ve now conveniently misplaced their stacks of glittery singles. “They did their job and they need to get paid.” Raising the money won’t be easy. Club owners are livid that they shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Craig Group, a Columbus signature collector that didn’t collect enough signatures. “Yeah, we owe money, but we paid upwards of one-million bucks to this guy,” says Al Spencer, who owns the Crazy Horse. “He didn’t deliver.” But that won’t satisfy Clark. And it could cost the clubs even more. “Keep in mind that your team are people with experienced political operatives with contacts all over the state and country,” the memo reads. “If something else goes wrong in the General Assembly, you will have no allies.” – Joe Tone

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