(Note: This story appears in the July 2022 issue of ED Magazine)
*Story by Winston Hines
Real estate and business broker Winston Hines details how club owners/operators can find good help these days.
A lot of times club owners I’m working with will ask me if I know of where they can find a suitable manager candidate, a DJ, a kitchen staffer, an attorney, a liquor license lawyer, etc. Over the years I’ve wound up accruing a kind of running list of suggestions. In no way should you consider this list exhaustive, totally accurate, or even unbiased. I will tell you that in every instance I give you, I’ve personally seen it work with varying degrees of success. Opinions are mine alone.
We all know the economy has exacerbated the difficulties of finding decent management material in this industry. A lot of times it can be hit or miss, a lot of churning, a lot of headaches. Some owners wind up going through managers like water and others I know hang onto managers they should have fired a long time ago.
About 18 or so years ago, I wound up meeting, by pure accident, three GMs over the course of a few months all over the US at different clubs, and all had one common trait that kind of stuck in my head: They had all come from the full- service hotels, either Marriott or Hilton, as assistant or food- and-beverage managers. I was impressed by their employer- trained skill sets — they were all fully computer literate, very knowledgeable about POS systems, had extensive training in HR and personnel requirements, great training in inventory control, and their offices were well organized.
About the only aspect they had to learn was in dealing with entertainers (how about that learning curve!). Since then, I have suggested to a number of owners that they go headhunting for food and beverage managers, with mixed results, but for the most part pretty darn good results.
A club without entertainers is not a strip club. A strip club without an experienced, current music trending and knowing, personable, crowd-focused professional is so-so at best, and even more so, a waste. Over the years, I personally have had the opportunity and enjoyment to just sit back and watch and listen to guys like Dane Hansen (now a GM – Ed.) and Danny Meyers, and how they managed entertainers and features and interacted with the crowd. Listening to some guy with a mic an inch from his mouth monotoning, “And that was mumble, mumble, next up Violet, mumble mumble….” drives me up the wall.
In this case, that DJ isn’t helping the entertainers, the club, or the staff: He is what an automated DJ system fixes! On the other hand, that focused, inventive, articulate, intelligible DJ is a major asset to that club’s reputation and cash flow. Gee, if only there was some sort of professional organization of DJs that fostered and mentored adult club DJs. Oh hold on, there already is such an organization: PANDA, Professional Adult Nightclub DJ Association (pandamembers.org).
For any of you owners or GMs looking for DJs who take their work seriously, go to PANDA, and if your own DJs are not following PANDA music lists and trends, they need to start. You can post notices there, and there are easy ways to contact some of the luminaries in this organization for consultation.
Like my DIY approach to managers, this suggestion came partially out of a conversation I had in Dallas last year with a GM who was lamenting his inability to recruit and keep decent kitchen staff, and partially from my own experience in finding kitchen help over the years. In just about every major city and even moderately sized cities, there is at least either one stand-alone culinary school or a votech school that has a culinary program. All these schools have one factor in common: They are turning out skilled cooking folks who not only know how to prepare a steak, but also most of the time know how to manage inventory, control shrinkage and waste, and who want to work! This is an easy-peasy, low-tech avenue to find professional, focused kitchen staff who just might bring a stepped-up level of quality to your kitchen.
“A lot of times these members of FALA wind up ‘fixing’ what
a local lawyer might have messed up due to inexperience, or a FALA member’s experience manages to win over some local DA or city council. FALA members have been critical/instrumental in fighting the so-called ‘fair labor’ class-actions suits, the identity faces cases, and pivotal zoning cases.” — Hines
I have had the privilege of getting to know a number of members of the First Amendment Lawyers Association (firstamendmentlawyers.org). You have either read their articles or their court pleadings or their judgements reported here in ED Magazine or in ACE. They are the legal backbone of our industry’s survival against those who actively oppose our industry. Or sometimes it is purely a zoning issue, a permitting issue, an administrative agency hearing that you need more than a local attorney to represent your interest.
Make no mistake, a lot of times these members of FALA wind up “fixing” what a local lawyer might have messed up due to inexperience, or a FALA member’s experience manages to win over some local DA or city council. FALA members have been critical/instrumental in fighting the so-called “fair labor” class-actions suits, the identity faces cases, and pivotal zoning cases. I cannot overemphasize that any time you wind up head-to-head with any governmental entity, to reach out to a FALA member in addition to your local attorney. FALA is an internally curated, managed association. In other words, members are there because they have been accepted by the association, not because they just signed up.
Like FALA above, the National Association of Alcohol Beverage Licensing Attorneys (NAABLA) is an internally managed, curated list and association of attorneys who specialize in alcohol license issues and problems in every state, and also on the federal level, too. Ken Allen, a founding member, from Columbia, South Carolina, first turned me onto this organization several years back, and as a business broker, I have found it an invaluable resource in just about every state. Finding a knowledgeable, experienced, state ABC-conversant attorney is critical for the progress of a sale of a club a lot of times if the buyer is new or out of state and unfamiliar with all the ins-and-outs of state ABC rules and requirements.
I have utilized the NAABA website (naabla.com) for all over the US, and have yet to be disappointed in the level of experience and connections these lawyers have possessed. And of course, if a club runs afoul of state ABC rules, these just might be the folks you need in your corner to keep that license.
Finally, this article would not be complete without me writing a few words about the small group of us in the US who specialize in the purchase and/or sale of adult clubs as licensed brokers. You stand a good chance of doing yourself a real disservice if you place your club business or real estate and business in the hands of some local real estate broker or business broker who is not familiar and not conversant with our industry.
For example, there are some business brokerage groups and real estate groups that will not identify a strip club as an “adult club” but only as a “bar” or “nightclub”, because they don’t want to be associated with the adult club industry, but they will be happy to tie you to a long listing agreement and take your money.
Winston Hines, Broker in Charge of HWH Properties, is a licensed commercial Real Estate and Business Broker, specializing in the purchase and sale of adult nightclubs throughout the U.S. for over 20 years. He is a member of the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) and American Business Brokers Association (ABBA). He holds a Certified Business Intermediary (CBI) designation, as well as an (ABI), and has been a member of ACE since 2001. He can be contacted at either (864) 580-3826 or email@example.com or you can meet Winston at Booth #63 at the upcoming EXPO.