Strip Wars

The politics of selling sex entertainment on SoBe

Griffith gets hot because he feels Vegas Cabaret should have been shut down years ago, given that it is operating for all intents and purposes like an adult club. "Here's someone who comes in with a liquor license four years ago and puts some girls in there and the city lets them operate that way," he grieves. "Their excuse is it's not an adult club, but they advertise themselves as an adult club." It makes Griffith even madder that Vegas Cabaret tries to poach his dancers and bartenders. "When they come down and tell my girls to come and work at their club because they have alcohol [theoretically, drunk patrons spend more on lap dances], I don't like that," he spits.

Rick Howard, a partner with Lofrisco in Vegas Cabaret (and the onetime manager of one of Griffith's clubs when it was called Déjà Vu), claims the club's dancers wear their thongs and latex patches religiously. "We wish we didn't have to do that," he laments. He says Griffith's accusations are just his reaction to another business he feels is a threat to his own. "There's a lot of tension built up [between the clubs] over the last couple of years," Howard admits. "I can understand it. He has been on the Beach a long time. He feels, I guess, that we threaten him in some way, but I think there's enough business to go around." "Rick's not a bad guy," Griffith counters. "Listen, I'm not against anyone operating there as long as it's all fair. But the city is engaging in selective enforcement. They wouldn't let me get away with that."

Meanwhile the two club owners are driving city bureaucrats batty. Deputy city attorney Robert Dixon says both Griffith and Lofrisco are instigating constant on-site inspections because they complain about the supposedly illegal antics in each other's clubs, such as lewd behavior by dancers. "I get telephone calls from both these characters constantly," sighs Dixon. "They want to use the city's enforcement process to champion their [respective] causes. I understand what they are doing, but the city has no intention of becoming a ploy for either of them." Lofrisco refutes the allegation that he or his partner have complained about Griffith or his clubs. "We don't have the time to worry about other people," Lofrisco says. "We heard he goes and complains to the city. If he's comfortable with that, then God bless America."

Leroy Griffith's strip club empire runs wide-open on chutzpah and an endless supply of nubile flesh
Photos by Steve Satterwhite
Leroy Griffith's strip club empire runs wide-open on chutzpah and an endless supply of nubile flesh
Leroy Griffith's strip club empire runs wide-open on chutzpah and an endless supply of nubile flesh
Photos by Steve Satterwhite
Leroy Griffith's strip club empire runs wide-open on chutzpah and an endless supply of nubile flesh

"These two are having at each other -- it's the Hatfields and McCoys," Dixon continues. "I would say neither one of them is spotless. I don't give a lot of credence to either one. Both of them have been sitting in the first or second row of a cattle auction." Lofrisco, for his part, claims his troubles with the city are over, and he's ignoring Griffith's beef. "The city has always been fair with us," he says. "As far as I know, we don't have any problems right now." Nevertheless, Dixon says the city is pursuing a complaint against Vegas Cabaret for violating city codes in regard to nudity and "sexual conduct." This is the third time. Back in 1999, the city closed the club for 30 days and ordered a $5000 fine and $368 in reimbursement to the police for their undercover work. In 2000, the club was socked with an $8000 fine, and a $2500 reimbursement for police work.

Part of that enforcement included an agreement that Lofrisco's company, Kayrad, Inc., would drop a federal lawsuit it had filed against the city, and would pay double fines and face a possible revocation of the club's business license if it violated the codes again. Kayrad/Vegas Cabaret had filed the suit in 1999 to challenge the city's licensing process, which the club contended was unconstitutional. At the time, code enforcement officials were already knee-deep in the quagmire of violations the club generated because it advertised as a full liquor bar with nudity and because of police reports that dancers were offering undercover cops nude peeks and blow jobs. In one 1999 city memo, an unidentified club employee excused one dancer's behavior by telling inspectors, "It's like training puppies ... they do whatever they want."

Griffith believes that Dixon and the city have allowed the club to continue blatantly violating the rules because it agreed to drop the lawsuit. "How can the city attorney make a deal like that?" he asks. "It's clear they don't meet any of the ordinances. All I know is I get this jackpot of trouble just for having the wrong signs up," because they allegedly violated the historical standards of the area. "To me, it looks like [Vegas Cabaret] knows someone." Dixon denies that, arguing that it is a long and delicate process to build a violation case against the club. "What happened in the past, is their advertisements alone were an obvious code violation," he acknowledges. "On some of those prior [violations], it was worked out. They promised they would behave and now they broke that promise."

From August 2001 to January 2002, undercover city employees documented several instances of Vegas's exotic dancers being, well, too exotic. The reports are offered in the unimaginative language of the bureaucrat. One violation from January reads: "A dancer/employee identified as “Maya' while doing a private “couch dance' attempted to sell a patron on using the champagne room for a charge of $300. “Maya' [said] they would be alone for 30 minutes, they would share a bottle of champagne and she pulled on her G-string and said, “Plus, these come off.' The patron pointed to his pants and asked, “Do these come off?' She replied, “Yes.'" (This is nothing new to Lofrisco and Howard, whose Pompano Beach club Foxy Lady fought that city in 1997 when dancers exposed themselves and offered sex to undercover cops.)

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