Remedies Now For Future Events
While on-the-job training and experience are invaluable commodities when it comes to the job at hand, it’s simply impossible to prepare for everything. It’s this latter category of situations that demands a contingency plan.
The three gentlemen on hand at the “Crisis Control” panel had all experienced real-life calamities befall them or working associates. Speakers included the President and CEO of Nightclub Security Consultants Robert Smith; First Amendment attorney Luke Lirot; and DJ Platypus, Rick’s Cabaret Entertainment Director.
Portland, Oregon, Jan. 2014. Here’s the setup: typical gentlemen’s club on a Saturday evening. Inside the door is a cover girl, taking the cover. Brian Rizzo—known as Hulk because he was a powerlifter—he’s working. Guy comes in the door, he’s behind a couple of people and Brian hears the guy, who is a regular to the club, make a couple of racial slurs regarding the two Hispanic people in front of him. As he gets closer, Brian sees the guy is intoxicated, too intoxicated. He politely turns the guy down. The two Hispanic customers are paying their cover while the guy walks out.
About two minutes later, as drunks do, he walks back in and tries again. Brian sees this and talks to him again, nothing angry, handles it perfectly. Guy’s pissed off, he’s not being let into his club. He leaves a second time. About half an hour later, he walks back in the foyer. He’s got a Halloween clown-style mask. He walks up to Brian Rizzo, boom one to the head. Bullet goes in Brian’s head above his eye, he goes down. As the shooter (Thomas Hjelmeland) starts to run out, two more rounds in the foyer hitting the cover girl in the leg and a customer in the back of the leg. Inside, off-duty bouncer waiting to come on shift at 9 p.m. is Brian’s partner, John Baer. John is a big guy, avid Oregonian. Got his gun. No one knows he’s got it. This is plausible deniability. He hears the shots, he immediately draws his gun, runs out, literally steps over his friend and as he yells “Stop,” Hjelmeland starts to turn around, John opens up fire. Three rounds, one to the back killed the suspect. How many of your clubs have experienced a shooting? You don’t have to raise your hands, but you know who you are.
Three people shot, one in critical condition on the floor, two employees one customer. Can you smell the lawsuit? Dead guy in the parking lot. His family is going to blame anyone they can.
But there were no charges, no lawsuits. Why didn’t the cover girl sue? They took care of her. Customer didn’t sue because “wrong place, wrong time.” Are there really customers like that? You got them in your club, you just don’t know yet.
How did they stay open? They treated their people like family. They let you know you’re worth something. Brian just got his driver’s license back.
If you treat your people like family, if you’re polite to your guests—no lawsuits, that’s crazy. All the video was captured. They weren’t worried, their employee had a gun. By the way, what happened with OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission); what’d they do to the club? Nothing. Guy’s off duty, can’t have a gun on an alcohol premise. Plausible deniability, they didn’t know. He’s off duty, waiting to come on shift at 9. His testimony and statement is, ‘When I get ready to go on shift, I go out to my car.’ He admitted he had it, but no one in the club knew.
You can survive this, but you better be talking about it. What do we do if…what do we do pre- and post-, during? They closed. Well that’s a no-brainer. Trust me, I’ve seen stabbings with clients where they chaired off, let the police finish, mop the blood up, music’s back on. No, that’s the time you close and start preparing for the eventual lawsuit. Expect it. They survived. Three people shot, one dead, one critical, two employees, one customer. No lawsuits, no sanctions, and they opened the next week.
For more information, visit nightclubsecurity.com or call (619) 880-7672.
DJ Platypus, Entertainment Director, RCI
Crises come in many forms. I work at Tootsie’s Cabaret in Miami, Florida—a 90,000-square-foot building.
I’m going to speak about one specific night, and that’s a Thursday night about almost a year ago. We had 800-1,000 customers in the club at the time. It’s about midnight, which is peak time for us.
All of a sudden, beyond our control, not one of our guests, not one of our employees, but some random citizen crashed their car into the main power source of a 90,000-square-foot building making it completely black.
So what do you do?
Every club has had a power outage. This was a little different because the power to the club, the box, is lying on its side with a car over it. (Then general manager) Michael Gasperec goes downstairs and under one of the security lights from the “EXIT” signs, he develops a little crisis-control center.
He already had a stack of free-entrance passes in one pocket, handed it to one of his managers and said ‘Go to the front door, anyone who wants to leave let them know we’re sorry, come back anytime they’d like, we’ll take care of you.’ He told his other management, ‘Go check out every other room, whether it’s champagne room, suites upstairs, and get them out of there for safety purposes.
I go onstage with a box of promotional T-shirts and am screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘Who wants a free T-shirt?’ I have to figure out a way to entertain them just to keep them as long as I can while the power company is working to restore power.
We’re trying to create an atmosphere almost as if you were at a campsite with a thousand of your closest friends. That worked for maybe 20 minutes, power’s still not on. Now what do you do?
We probably lost, out of the 700 customers, maybe only 50 with no power, no music, just utilizing our intuition. The girls are on the stage acting out Shakespearean plays, because we ran out of shit to do—there’s nothing to do here!
At that point, our managers are walking around touching tables in the dark, getting to know their customers just because we don’t want them to leave, not even realizing this is the greatest thing to happen to us. We never have this opportunity when the music’s blaring and 100 girls and a million things going on. Now we have dialogue with the customers.
It’s still dark. I go to outside security and meet up with the technicians. I go up to them and say ‘Listen, you know what building this is behind you you’re trying to fix right now. If you get the lights on, I have 100 naked women where you are their hero. Help me. Go as fast as you can.’ Sure enough, ten minutes later the lights come on.
If you’re going to take anything out of this panel today, it’s that shit happens. The stuff you can’t control is always the most stressful in your life, but you can still be prepared by taking the time and engaging your staff and making them aware of these things and have them contribute to the solution—even if their solution is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard. It’s trust. It’s communication.
For more information, visit tootsiescabaret.com or call (305) 651-5822.
I can tell you the days of thinking the police are not going to come into your club anymore are not gone by a long shot, not even a little bit.
I think a lot of times people take for granted that most of the folks associated with this business, or any business, are relatively familiar with the fundamental rights at stake, the fundamental rights that basically every citizen has, but people in different professions are more likely to have to use those rights than others.
You have the right to remain silent. Who doesn’t know that? In my experience, there have been so many people that have fallen victim to these kinds of tricks. You have the right to refuse a search of yourself, or your car, or your locker. If you don’t consent to that search, and an officer finds something that they then try to use to prosecute you, you can file a motion to suppress and if that evidence is suppressed, your case gets dismissed.
A lot of the younger people don’t have that operational understanding of the assertion of their fundamental rights. It’s always important for you and your staff to know if any problem arises, it’s good to be prepared. People may not have your lawyer, but they have access to a lawyer, as well as a bondsperson. There’s nothing more useful to law enforcement then to place a performer under arrest who is scared, ill-informed, who doesn’t have the knowledge of her fundamental rights at her fingertips. They keep her there for a while, start asking her questions—it’s human nature to want to avoid an uncomfortable situation, so what do they do? The performer, ill at ease, alone, is significantly more likely to not exercise her right to remain silent and to say something that, better or worse, true or false, has an adverse effect on the operation of your club.
Another war story is in Polk County. They raided one of the gentlemen’s clubs and during the process, the owner of the club tried to educate the performers that they had the right to remain silent. Unfortunately, the sheriff’s office didn’t think that that was a civil recitation of the understanding of their constitutional rights, they thought it was obstruction of justice, so they arrested him and charged him with that. I’ll say they’re not benevolent to adult entertainment in Polk County. They said we’re not giving you a bond, because you’ll go back and open that club. They prosecuted him and found him guilty and wouldn’t even give him an appeal bond. It wasn’t until the conclusion of this appeal almost 11 months later—and he was in the Polk County Jail that entire time—that the appellate court said all this guy was doing was telling these people what their constitutional rights are.
When officers do come in, be polite, be cooperative. No matter how unreasonable or how inappropriate or illegitimate the entry of law enforcement is into your club, you need to be cooperative. Police misconduct is a reality that we live with today. We may not see it all the time, but it’s out there.
One high note, some friends of mine were fighting a gentleman, Scott Bergthold—Scott is the go-to attorney for local governments opposing adult businesses. Scott was down in Manatee County (Florida) and he’s taken the position that if he has undercover people in the club that will exaggerate and extrapolate and describe the conduct in the way that’s worst for the club, that he might get some more leverage from the court in trying to do things that are adverse to the continued operation of the club. Instead of the usual undercover guys in Manatee County, he actually hires some private investigators who came in and had multiple lap dances and took copious notes of the simulated sexual activity and of all of the different specified anatomical areas.
We had a hearing on a motion for contempt and these private investigators took the stand and testified in great and explicit detail of every lap dance that they had and when I stood to cross examine them, I looked at the judge and said ‘Judge, I need the sheriff’s bailiff to take these people into custody. They’ve just admitted under oath that they broke the law, and they’re not confidential informants working at the behest or under the auspices of law enforcement and they’re certainly not sworn officers. They’ve just testified that they got in there and broke the law.’ Mr. Bergthold turned a bright purple, he was a little upset because the judge was nodding his head and then asked for an explanation as to why my argument was not correct, why they shouldn’t be taken into custody. They’re looking at Mr. Bergthold a little upset because they might have been set up for something. It was a fun five minutes, but nobody got taken into custody.
As unlikely as it may be that you’re expecting any kind of intervention from law enforcement or immigration or anybody, make sure that everybody in your club understands their basic constitutional rights, because a lot of them don’t remember. Make sure to continue to operate as a family, everybody being able to make money and continue in this wonderful profession, this wonderful industry.
For more information, visit lirotlaw.com or call