Missouri strip club business down as law forces them to cover up

At noon on a recent weekday, Natalie Beary — wearing underwear more modest than you'll find in most lingerie catalogs — plopped coins into a jukebox, climbed onto a stage, and started to dance.

Usually, two or three dozen men might be at the Shady Lady adult lounge to watch Beary and her co-workers sway to the music while removing most of their clothes.

But not on this day. The room on Kansas City's East Side was empty. It's a casualty, manager Joe Spinello said, of Missouri's nearly three-week-old law sharply restricting sexually oriented entertainment.

"Our headcount is down almost 80 percent," Spinello said. "We don't have a product to offer."

And that product isn't likely to return anytime soon, he admitted, at his bar or any of the other adult entertainment venues across the state.

After failing to convince a circuit court judge and an appeals court to put a temporary stop to the law, the industry's legal team says the new rules — which broadly restrict nude or semi-nude entertainment — won't face full legal arguments until early November, with a trial now set for next February.

With expected appeals, the law is likely locked into place for months to come.

"The businesses are open. The girls are there," said Richard Bryant, one of the adult industry's lawyers. "But things are a little different."

In fact, many of the state's live adult entertainment venues have adopted a strategy similar to the Shady Lady's.

By having employees and freelance dancers wear swimsuits or underwear, the bars are not considered "sexually oriented" businesses and can stay open past midnight, serve liquor with a proper license, and offer close contact between dancers and customers.

Clubs still can offer semi-nude dancing — defined as exposed female breasts or bottoms of either sex — but they must close at midnight, can’t serve alcohol, and their dancers must stay on a stage without touching patrons. Total nudity is now prohibited.

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