Dancers at SoBe Gay Club Twist Accused of Phone Theft

"Pay for a lap dance, end up getting fucked," Danny Garcia says. Most of the time, this T&A truism translates to a sticky ending in the back of one of Miami's seedy strip clubs. But Garcia alleges that for customers at Twist, one of South Beach's oldest and most beloved gay bars, it has an altogether different meaning.

"I had my phone stolen during a lap dance," Garcia complains. "I felt like I got taken advantage of. One moment, somebody is touching you. The next, your stuff is missing."

"I can't say that nothing has happened with a dancer before. They aren't above reproach," Twist general manager Valentino Eriksen admits. "But we try to root out that type of problem."

Garcia, who asked that New Times change his last name for privacy, says the surrep-strip-tious theft spoiled his going-away party. An English major at a university in New York City, Garcia was home for the holidays. He had scored a sweet spring-semester internship in Los Angeles, however, and went out for one last night on the town with childhood friends. By the time they reached Twist around 3 a.m., Garcia was a few beers deep.

"I was on my phone when we walked in," he says of the January trip to Twist. "We went straight to the back, where my friend bought me a lap dance as a farewell present."

The pas de dong is mostly a blur of booze and banana hammocks, Garcia admits. But at some point during the dance, he distinctly remembers hearing something clatter to the floor. When he asked about the noise, the stripper shushed him and went back to swinging his, uh, chiseled hips.

Garcia and his friends soon left to get some food on Washington Avenue. But when he reached for his phone to check in on Foursquare, Garcia realized his brand-new $400 iPhone 5 was missing. He and his buddies went back to Twist, but Eriksen said no one had found a phone. Besides, Twist didn't have any legal liability because the dancers weren't employees but independent contractors, he claimed. "He told us not to fill out a police report," Garcia says. ("It's not very productive," Eriksen says.)

But this wasn't the first instance of thong-clad thievery at the club, Garcia says. He claims a security guard confessed to him that phone theft "happens a lot." Meanwhile, three of his friends later said they suffered similar thefts at the club. Miami Beach police did not respond to requests for records on Twist. The nightclub's Yelp page contains four separate complaints of phone theft by dancers. And even Eriksen admits that phones are sometimes stolen as often as several per week, and that dancers have been caught stealing in the past. But he says it's a problem shared by other clubs.

"It hurts us just as much as it hurts the customer who has the phone stolen," Eriksen says. "Their phone is worth so much. But how much do we lose in lost business? So it's to our benefit to get this taken care of."

Garcia thinks the club gets lenient treatment because it's so beloved. "When the same thing happens again and again, it can't be a mistake."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.

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