Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio, Puerto Rican musician who plays Bad Rabbit and achieved this year Spotify’s best-selling and streaming album, who was stopped by Sin City Cabaret on his way to the Made in America show in Philadelphia on September 4. That night, he gave his entourage $50,000 to spend on dancers, dinners, and alcoholic drinks at the Passyunk Avenue strip club.
It was a propaganda coup for the club’s founder, Constantine “Gus” Dracopoulos, who rushed to draw the pros. athletes and singers for his family’s former club, Sin City, in the Bronx. The club, which was in a restorative neighborhood, closed in 2018 after the state found it “failed to exercise adequate oversight,” and that its name, and not just its associates, should have been on the liquor license. Pennsylvania granted it a license the following year, and Sin City Cabaret opened in 2020, just in time for pandemic restrictions.
Philadelphia “has been behind a lot of other cities” in terms of the status of locally owned strip clubs, and this has created opportunities for newcomers “styled New York,” says Callie Morgan, owner of Passional Boutique and Exploratorium in South Street, which sells clothing and accessories to strip club artists. She said their salaries were better before the 1990s, when clubs switched from paying by the hour to charging dancers and treating them as contractors.
Drakapoulos met with The Inquirer to talk about his club. His responses are edited for clarity and brevity.
With Sin City in the Bronx we had a great club, great people, but the city made it difficult for us. I felt like the politicians and the developers who renovated the South Bronx, they wanted us out. It’s like a new city now.
I still have a club in New York, the Show Palace in Queens. The dancers are completely nude, non-alcoholic, so you can get in there when you are 18.
The club we had in the Bronx, a lot of people in the music industry came in, it was the hangout, and now they come here when there’s a show in Philadelphia.
People used to go to a Hispanic club, an African American club, or a white boy’s club. In our first club, we started as a place where you get it all, and that’s what we do here. A diverse outlook is a recipe for our success. So I figured, why do you cater to some people when you can cater to everyone?
About 32% of our clients here are female. Bachelorette parties, or with their friends or spouses, or in groups. When I started working, there was an unwritten rule: No woman is allowed into clubs unless accompanied by a male companion. So I started noticing these girls in line asking the guard if he could show up as their date. I thought about it and started, on Thursday nights, what we called Stripper Idol, like American Idol. Ladies before midnight get a free drink. Now women come here, like men.
There used to be a club here, Vanity Grand. We bought it for cash and put a wrecking ball on it. Construction was 90% complete when the pandemic hit, and we had to stop until August.
We opened in September  With masks, sneezing guards, and a promise that crowd capacity will be no more than 50% [which totals 1,500 people]. That’s fine when you’re dinner and you can serve, but it’s awful when you have a club that relies on human touch, momentum, and energy. And they are all closed from December to February  After the sharp rise in cases of Corona virus.
So in 2021 we had a soft reopening on word of mouth. They lifted restrictions by June. It usually opens with a lot of noise, advertisements, radio and the place filling because people are feeding people. But we kept things quiet.
We fill up on weekends. Weekend nights, maybe 40% of capacity. We’re going to start opening for lunch this fall. We are talking to the Department of Health about our plans for the cigar room. We’re still better known in New York than Philly.
We were very fortunate to find people to work with us. We have 50 people working here [on a busy night]300 or 400 in the list altogether.
You know the dancers are independent contractors – they come anytime they want, dress what they want, and dance with whomever they want. Our dancers earn from about $400 a night to over $2,000. [They pay the club up to $100 a shift.] I tell them that this is not the real move. It’s a stepping stone – do it in the next few years to make money and get out. You don’t want to make it a profession.
We also undertake outsourcing of security. Then the bottle servers, they get hourly wages, tips, and bonuses. They can earn $200 a night, mostly from tip. I’ve seen these girls earn over $1000.
We have white collar clients. They’ll come here to celebrate a birthday, hen or stag party, close a deal, or have a chat with a client. Car dealers on Essington Street, sellers come here to get a few beers and a kick before heading home.
My parents owned the club in New York. But I was a stockbroker, on the New York Stock Exchange, I started it when I was 19. It was just like this movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. I was recruited by a hungry young man with a work ethic.
They trained me to be this bull that went and sold an arrow. [Drakopoulos was found guilty of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in an insider-trading case in 2003 and was sentenced to probation. New York authorities in 2008 agreed to waive a ban that prohibits people with convictions from operating a bar.]
I met a client in Texas – it was a Greek colleague; He knew my father – we became best friends. He owned strip clubs. And he took me to clubs owned by other Greeks. I’ve come to find these Greeks in Texas strip clubs, like Greek-owned restaurants in New Jersey and New York. [The customer, Lampros Moumouris, was a partner in the Bronx club and became a partner in the Philadelphia club; he died in 2021. Frank Antonio Aleman, a photographer and a senior manager at Sin City in the Bronx, is also a partner in the Philadelphia club.]
My wife is also Greek. Her family is from Crete, and my family is from Kalamata, where olives grow. We met in the old quarter. It’s my balance. She is a speech therapist and a very conservative person.
Author Ryan Briggs contributed to this report.
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