Friday, Sept. 20, 2013

Let Silk Exotic Open Downtown

Why a high-end gentleman's club is a good fit for Old World Third Street

By Tyler Maas
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Earlier this week, Downtown businesses and residents near 730 N. Old World Third Street received a Notice Of Public Interest stating Class B Tavern, Public Entertainment Premises and Food Dealer licenses were applied for by a potential new tenant to the property. That proposed tenant is well known to Milwaukee and no stranger to the application process. This marks the third time such a notice has been issued for Silk Exotic near Downtown Milwaukee since 2010. Silk’s first two attempts were shot down swiftly. Silk’s third attempt could, and in this writer’s opinion, should be a charm.

According to Jeff Sherman of OnMilwaukee.com, Silk Exotic’s 2010 application for the same 3rd Street location was unanimously shot down by Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District (B.I.D.) No. 21 because (to quote the press release mentioned in Sherman’s post), “…supporting any licenses would be a step backward, not forward. A strip club neither fits the vision of the Downtown Master Plan nor the Streetfront Retail Strategy.”

The same powers at be also nixed a strip club proposed by Silk’s ownership group (Six Star Holdings) on Pittsburgh Avenue, also by a unanimous vote.

With all due respect to an organization that strives to continually improve Milwaukee’s downtown, I think the board is allowing morality and an aversion to controversy to get in the way of what could be a tremendous opportunity for Downtown revitalization. I’d be lying if I said I’d never been to any of Silk’s locations, but I’m far from a strip-club regular. Still, I personally take no more issue with 730 N. Old World Third becoming Silk East than I do seeing yet another failed bar, restaurant or night club tacked to the edifice’s lengthy track record of brief tenants.

Do the names The Velvet Room, Martini Mike’s and Rusty’s Old 50 ring a bell? If they did, maybe one would still be open. In an area already rife with rowdy drinking establishments—some of which are just as family un-friendly as strip clubs, in my opinion—and unimaginative sports bars, I fail to recognize what one more in a sea of dozens really offers. Is Old World Third lacking that perfect second tapas joint or in need of another sparsely visited specialty spice shop that will push Downtown to the next level? I don’t think so. Silk East could bring oodles of revenue and jobs to the area. Say what you may about Silk’s line of work, but the business has been plenty successful in its location buried on the North Side of town (which was met with significantly less opposition, for some reason).

Perhaps Coyote Ugly could take over the site when its current lease on nearby Water Street expires. Don’t worry about the women dancing provocatively atop the bar (whom, unlike at Silk Exotic, can be seen by passersby through exterior windows) at the franchise with no local ties—they’re wearing tops. Maybe another place nearby offering body shots or $1 happy hour drinks all night would protect the wholesome reputation of Milwaukee’s Downtown.

Nothing about Silk Exotic seems remotely outside the boundaries of the law. Dancers only appear topless. Patrons must show identification upon entry. There is no nudity permitted outside the doors. The most harmful byproduct to youth would be having the meaning of the word “Exotic” explained to them by parents. Those who want no part in the business could avoid it with ease.

The lack of a reputable high-end strip clubs Downtown—sorry, Solid Gold and Art’s Performing Center!—is undoubtedly a factor in exotic dance establishments sprouting up in Oak Creek, West Allis (until recently), West Bend and near the airport. Surely, a significant amount of money that’s spread thin throughout strip clubs in the suburbs and on Milwaukee’s outskirts would find its way to Downtown if there was a place like Silk nearby. Neighboring bars and restaurants would almost certainly reap some of the benefits as pre- and post-gentleman’s club destinations.

The proposed location is also in close proximity to almost all major Downtown hotels, which would allow people congregated in town for bachelor parties, Brewers or Bucks games or any of Milwaukee’s many festivals a viable option for adult entertainment that’s a safely walkable distance away. Silk East would undoubtedly improve the unsavory opinion of Milwaukee held by some touring entertainers and professional athletes. Would it be so bad if some of the money Milwaukeeans give to performers and million-dollar athletes was re-circulated into the local economy by way of a G-string or obscenely overpriced beverage? In my opinion, it wouldn’t.

Really, this perspective isn’t meant to support Silk’s attempted Downtown venture in any way. But it’s written in defense of a business that’s shown it can succeed in other places (including elsewhere in Milwaukee), and an entity that specializes in an industry that’s becoming increasingly more acceptable in modern society. Silk has long-endured unfair treatment and criticism by people and organizations who are either unable or unwilling to recognize how much sense a Downtown expansion really makes.

If there’s a business better fit to occupy 730 N. Old World Third Street, by all means, deny Silk’s application a third time. But since Silk’s first try in 2010, we haven’t seen it. Milwaukee can either take a measured, rational view of the innumerable benefits Silk East would bring, or just throw another cocktail lounge at the façade and hope it finally sticks.
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