EXPO 2020 | Oct 25-28 - Planet Hollywood Las Vegas

State of the Union 2012 with Joe Redner


12EXPO joe1— Mons Venus’ Joe Redner —

In Tampa, some politicians vilify Joe Redner as “the ultimate outsider,” while residents consider him a local legend. But in our industry Joe Redner, owner of the famed Mons Venus adult nightclub, carries the title “father of the lap dance.” One of the most multi-faceted club owners in the history of our industry, Joe is a very vocal advocate of Libertarian principles. He has waged dozens of legal battles with the Tampa city council, which has tried to place restrictions on the city’s adult nightclub industry for three decades. He has filed suits that have reached the US Supreme Court and have established legal precedent. In addition to being a club owner, business man, and mercurial First Amendment speaker as host of a weekly live, call-in TV program called “The Voice of Freedom” Joe ran for County Commissioner in 2004 and for City Councilman in 2007. And for anyone that’s ever questioned whether or not Joe Redner is a fighter, consider that he was only recently diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, which, thankfully, is in remission. At EXPO 2012, Redner offered a sample of his often controversial and never boring opinion on how our industry has fared over the past two decades, and how adult nightclub owners can defend themselves against the common threats posed against them.

Joe Redner

Good afternoon. Before I get started, I want to thank Angelina Spencer [ACE Executive Director] for an e-mail that she sent me, not long ago. It really made my day, year and life. It was really respectful and I am going to read it to you.
“I hope this e-mail finds you better. I think about you often as I travel, work and play, and last night I took the opportunity to view your documentary. Watching you speak and hearing the testaments from your loved ones was extraordinarily touching. It reaffirms for me that you are one of the finest human beings I have ever met. Not because I idolize you or think you are perfect. I don’t. But I do greatly admire and often envy your candor, intelligence, guts, care, concern and resilience. You inspire me to keep reaching for my personal best, to push myself harder when I feel like quitting, to learn the facts before opening my mouth, to stand up against hypocrites and idiots, but also to try and understand and learn. You have also inspired my health through your words and actions. I’ve been compelled to recommit myself to exercise and eating right. I appreciate all you have done to help promote ACE and Florida SEA. But, more importantly, I truly value and will forever strive to uphold the wisdom, compassion and fight for justice you’ve stirred within me. Through your example I realize that reaching for perfection is never as good as simply doing your best.”
I do want to ask you one thing, Angelina—you don’t think I’m perfect? (Audience laughs). I think that if I was going to get somebody to represent my organization [ACE], I think Angelina would be the perfect person. She does one hell of a job.
What I am going to talk about today is the importance of running your club in a manner that would not offend any zoning ordinance they could pass. This message is for people who have established clubs who have had a chance to build a record to protect their club. That means not causing problems that the ordinance was passed to address. In Florida, we have property right laws. This has nothing to do with the First Amendment. They have just about eviscerated the First Amendment as far as zoning goes, it almost doesn’t exist anymore. But in Florida, and I do believe in other states, we do have protections that you can use at your club once you have established a record to go into court to prove that you don’t cause those problems. And I’m going to use a little law that we have in Florida and I’m going to read it to you:
“Zoning regulations must apply without unnecessary discrimination and be reasonable in their scope and operation, to be valid as a justifiable exercise of the police power.” So you could say these zoning ordinances are unconstitutional and, facially, lose that case. And that’s triable in court. That also has an equal protection component that if there are bars [nightclubs] that are permitted in your zone and they have worse problems than you have, you also have an equal protection argument. If you don’t cause the problems in your ordinance, they can’t apply it to your property.
I’m going to read some more law to you. “The right of an owner to devote his land to any legitimate use is properly within the terms of the Constitution and the legislature may not under the guise of the police power impose unnecessary or unreasonable restrictions upon such use.” So it is so important to maintain your club, take care of it, and operate it in a manner that won’t offend the ordinance.
There are two causes to action. The first is the property in question does not cause the problems the ordinance was passed to address, or any other problems the city can dream up that aren’t the proper considerations for zoning ordinances. The second is that the property in question will not contribute to the problems any more than any other business allowed to operate in the applicable zone. And here is why they usually pass zoning ordinances: they say that you cause crime, thus downgrading the adjoining property values and attracting undesirable individuals. If all of these things can be proven not to be applicable to your club because you don’t cause those problems, they cannot say [your club is in violation of the ordinance]. 

12EXPO joe2We make sure there is no criminal activity around us that can be attributed to us. We can prove that property values around our club are higher than other areas. I buy old houses in the neighborhood and fix them up. We don’t look the other way and we don’t rely on plausible deniability to say, “Oh, we didn’t know about that.” That’s something government officials do.
For example, what we do at Mons Venus is, we see to it that we don’t make any noise. There are clubs around me that blare out at night; they blare out to the neighborhood. We make sure we don’t do that. You can’t hear any noise from my club outside. We make sure there is no litter in the neighborhood. We actually go into the neighborhood and clean up the litter whether it’s ours or not. I don’t say, “Well, that’s not my litter, I’m not going to clean it up,” I clean it up.
We make sure there is no criminal activity around us that can be attributed to us. We can prove that property values around our club are higher than other areas. I buy old houses in the neighborhood and fix them up.
We did exit and entrance polls to show our customers were better financially off than the average person and we did it anonymously. We don’t allow drugs (or criminal activity). We don’t look the other way and we don’t rely on plausible deniability to say, “Oh, we didn’t know about that.” That’s something government officials do. They use plausible deniability, people who run for office. We can’t do that. We also send girls with drug problems, if we have any, which we don’t hardly have any anymore, to counselling, which is a big factor.
I’ve always tried to plan for every event. In the early days it was unions. Now it’s withholding taxes and insurance. Years ago I won in tax court on appeal and the reason was, I run my club differently, in terms of how I treat my dancers. I don’t take any of their money. They can work seven days a week or one day a week. They can come in at any time of the day. And that’s an advantage because we have fresh girls coming in all the time so customers are never really bored. And I don’t take any of their money. So the argument is in the industry that they are independent contractors instead of employees. That’s not our defense that we used in the tax court.
We went in there and said, “Don’t presume,” because they presumed I was going to use the independent contractor defense. And when I went in there and said, “Don’t presume that. I never told you that my dancers were independent contractors. I told you and I am telling you now, they are self employed and you already admitted they are self employed. You audited two of my dancers already and you have taxed them. So what are we doing here? You have already made the determination that they are self employed. Doctors are self employed if they have their own office. Dentists are self employed if they have their own office.” So I don’t have that problem with the IRS. They actually assisted me with $2 million in withholding taxes and they dismissed it.
I’d also like to talk about the way we beat the six-foot (distance requirement law between dancer and patron) in Tampa. We initially tried to beat the six-foot law in the courts, but we could not win. The deck is stacked on you in the court system. So what we did was we provoked the city and they quit even bothering anybody else and they kept making arrests for the six-foot law, and I think there were 100 or 135 cases against my club. And I wouldn’t go for a plea bargain. We have a speedy trial law in Florida—90 days for a misdemeanor, I believe—and they have to try it within 90 days or it is dismissed. Well, we invoked speedy trial law. They came with a deal. I said “No deal, we try them all. We are going to try every god damned one of these cases.”
They couldn’t do it—it’s impossible. They had to let drunk drivers go because we were invoking speedy trial, and the court systems were overloaded. That was 12 years ago. They just stopped arresting people (for the six-foot buffer) because they couldn’t get ahead of it. So here is what we settled for (we did eventually settle). The dancers pled no contest. They withheld adjudication, no fines, no court costs, no probation. So it was just a walk in the park. I did make a mistake that I really didn’t see back then. The dancers, some of them, were labelled by school officials as (sexual offenders), so they didn’t get to go on outing with their children and school outings and things like that. So that is one thing I didn’t have the foresight to see or I would have never let that happen.
Now I want to talk about something else. I’m going to talk about the election that is coming up. You know we have Romney running for office and he says he wants to put judges on the U.S. Supreme Court like Scalia. Scalia is a conservative. In fact, one of the cases we had on adult zoning that he wrote, I think, a consenting opinion on. He said, talking about club owners and the people of this county in general, “Where do you get that idea that you can do as you please as long as you don’t harm somebody else?” I always thought that was the essence of freedom, and we simply don’t need any more judges like that on the Supreme Court of the United States. That is exactly what Romney has said that he will put on that court; judges just like Scalia.
Another problem with the Republicans is, the Republican-controlled House passed no bills to finance spending in the public sector to hire teachers, fire fighters, the police or the people who rebuild our infrastructure, such as collapsing bridges and deteriorating roads. This inaction impeded economic growth in an attempt to make President Barack Obama look bad and it happened. However, the House voted more than 30 times to ban a woman’s right to choose.
Also, the (Vice Presidential candidate Paul) Ryan budget plan would turn the long-standing and highly successful Medicare into a voucher system, privatize Social Security and de-fund Medicaid. The Ryan plan would also give the wealthiest Americans, like Romney, a large tax cut, while raising taxes on the middle class.
I want to dispel some myths that more taxes on the rich cut jobs. I’m talking about income taxes. Income taxes are profits that pass through to the owners and are taxed as income. Now, you have to take your money out of your business, not leave it in, to be taxed as income taxes. If you leave the money in the business and you make capital improvements, hire more people, etc., then you aren’t going to be taxed on that. That is an expense, you don’t get taxed. It’s only when you take the money out of your business and put it in your pocket that you are taxed on it.
Don’t be afraid to pay a little more tax. Support your country. I don’t mind paying a little bit more tax, but I’m not going to pay it by myself. That’s not going to solve anything. When we came out of the Great Depression we had 90 percent taxes in this country on income. Ninety percent. Nobody took their money out of their businesses. Who wants to pay that? They left it in there. They created jobs with that money because they don’t tax that money when you create jobs.
You want to know why we are in debt? We are in debt because during the Republican Bush years we had an unfunded drug program. Unfunded. They didn’t raise taxes, in fact they lowered taxes, to pay for this drug program. They spent in the tens of billions, hundreds of billions, maybe trillions of dollars. Two unfunded wars, four trillion dollars. We are paying for it now.
They also deregulated Wall Street and the banks. Banks bundled mortgages and they sold them because they didn’t have any liability once they sold them. They didn’t care who they sold them to; that means they didn’t care if the home buyer could pay the mortgage or not. Then they sold mortgages in big packages to unsuspecting stockholders in the stock market as triple A stocks. So when the people who financed the houses could not pay for the house, the whole house of cards came down.
Do you want to vote for the Republicans so they can deregulate the banks and Wall Street? No one was prosecuted for this because the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, was implicit under the Bush administration. They had people watching this going on and they didn’t say anything about it. Now they can’t prosecute anybody on this because the people being prosecuted will just say, “Hey, the government was in there doing it with us.” They stole the equity in every middle class person’s home and they just got away scott free. And you want to vote for Romney because he wants to lower taxes and deregulate Wall Street and banks because he says the regulations get in the way of the economy? Are they all crazy?


Tags: expo 2012

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