For adult entertainers who rely on packed crowds, human touch and cold hard cash, the coronavirus challenges their livelihood.
It was supposed to be another night of sequins, pasties and biodegradable glitter — dancers care about the environment too — but the coronavirus had other plans.
On Sunday, Jacksonville’s Hamburger Mary’s location on Beach Boulevard canceled its standing “Mixin’ with Vixens” female burlesque show amid fear of the virus spreading. There weren’t enough seats filled.
“A lot of people are just scared to go out,” Brittany Moore, the venue’s entertainment director said. “There have been a lot of cancellations. But we’re grateful to be open.”
For now, the restaurant and venue remain open, but with a limit of 50 people per show, a midnight curfew and curbside food pick-up options.
It’s just one of many clubs and venues across the country whose performers are being impacted by the virus — a trend that could be detrimental for the adult entertainment industry.
COMPLETE COVERAGE | Coronavirus in Florida
“When it comes to club dancers, they are tipped-based jobs,” said Sunny Parker, the founder of Jacksonville’s Punk Rock Burlesque troupe and a former Jacksonville resident. “With burlesque performers, all our events are being canceled. It really sucks.”
Parker’s observations aren’t isolated.
In Las Vegas, Crystal Martino, an exotic dancer told Daily Mail her earnings were slipping by $1,300 a night.
“Before the coronavirus scare, I was pulling in about $2,000 a night,” Martino said. “Now I’m lucky if I make $300.”
In Jacksonville, the restrictions have forced layoffs.
“It severely impacted our business,” Tyler Douglas, the club manager at Wacko’s Gentlemen’s Club told News4Jax. “It’s affecting us, the dancers we have here. No one is able to make money,”
It’s worth noting that exotic dancing — which by nature involves close contact and cash transactions — has been deemed one of the most dangerous service industry jobs in the time of the coronavirus by publications like Texas Monthly.
“If I see you coughing or sneezing or it looks like you have respiratory problems, there’s no way I’m coming over to you,” a dancer told the publication. “Some of the dancers might play it off and pretend they’re not worried about coronavirus, but everyone is worried.”
Conversely, other strip clubs have been trying to make light of the situation.
In Tampa, Déjà Vu Showgirls — which has over 200 locations including one in Jacksonville — announced it would give away 10,000 face masks and 50,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to customers throughout March. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who aren’t sick not to use face masks.
Maybe those gimmicks are working.
Before Mayor Lenny Curry and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ tighter restrictions on bars and restaurants were released this week, strip clubs in Jacksonville still appeared busy, with buzzing social media tags and fairly crowded parking lots.
The owner of Jacksonville adult club Gold Bar, Michael Tomkovich, was not immediately available for comment.
In New York, a strip club manager who went by Bob K. told the New York Post business was strong a little over a week ago.
“Our business has actually spiked due to more locals coming out and less tourists in the neighborhood,” Bob said, adding that there was plenty of hand sanitizer available.
Since then, New York has seen an uptick in COVID-19 related deaths — up to 22, as well as more than 3,000 cases. Bars have also been fully shut down.
″[In New York] all theaters and venues over 500 capacity have been closed,” Parker said. “Most events across the country have been canceled or postponed. One of the performers in our troupe had a show this evening that canceled and most burlesque performers calendar’s have been wiped out.”
But it’s not all bleak.
Parker says the service industry shift will force entertainers to move their platform online.
“I see a lot of performers now doing online shows, starting Patreons [a popular subscription service for artists] and OnlyFans accounts,” Parker said. “This is also a great time for people to support performers by pledging to those [subscription accounts] or buying their merch.”
Even Hamburger Mary’s in Jacksonville has introduced touchless tipping — through use of Cash App — and livestreamed shows.
“We’re promoting Cash App tipping for our entertainers and gift cards are available to support us,” Moore said.
“We need this support. We need people to be there for us,” she added. “We’ve already survived two hurricanes — we’ve survived so much. We’ve been here nine years we don’t want to close.”
Emily Bloch: (904) 359-4083