The mix of nude dancers, orange juice and black-and-white independent films wasn’t in Bob Rieger’s original business plan.
But it has helped his Racehorses Gentlemen’s Club survive amid the cornfields of McCook County and fend off a two-year barrage of challenges from politicians and outraged members of Citizens Against Nude Juicebars and Pornography.
“I’ve been to court with them four times, and I beat them every time,” Rieger says.
When the county denied Rieger a liquor license for a bar, he opened a strip club with a juice bar in 2003. When it served a stop order saying a commercial business could not operate in an area zoned for agriculture, Rieger went to court and won.
And when 74 percent of the county’s voters passed an anti-nudity ordinance in June, Rieger found a loophole that exempted movie theaters. After a two-week hiatus, the club re-emerged as Racehorses Gentlemen’s Club and Adult Movie Theatre and has been operating ever since.
‘They’re really picking on me’
Now the county is drawing up a new ordinance that would require his dancers to wear pasties and G-strings. And a state senator plans to push for a similar state law.
“At this point, it’s harassment,” Rieger says. “They’re really picking on me.”
McCook County State’s Attorney Roger Gerlach says the proposed ordinance is not an attempt to put him out of business: “As long as they have some opaque clothing over the crucial parts of the human body, they can dance all they want.”
In the meantime, customers continue paying a $10 cover — actually called an all-day movie ticket — to watch strippers dance. Patrons can sit next to the stage or get a private dance in a small room off to the side. They can also grab a stool at the juice bar and order a $3 soft drink or a $4 juice or power drink.
When Rieger retooled his business as a movie theater, he said he would feature independent, artsy R-rated films. During a recent visit, though, hardcore fare was playing in the club’s 17-seat theater.
‘A line between right and wrong’
The 15-member Citizens Against Nude Juicebars and Pornography has organized protests outside the club and filmed patrons in the parking lot to discourage them from entering. Salem hair salon owner Maxine Pulse, the group’s co-founder, says she saw men drinking and urinating in the parking lot and dancers coming to the door nude.
“There’s a line between right and wrong,” Pulse says. “And it seems like anymore nowadays that line has got all jumbled up.”
After Rieger seized on a loophole in the law that allows nudity in such places as movie theaters, health clubs and college art classes, Pulse’s group dropped its protests for fear of being hit with harassment charges.
Republican state Sen. Clarence Kooistra plans to take the fight to the next level and propose a state law that would require Rieger’s dancers to cover up.
“We do not want the Salem area and McCook County to be known as Sin City, South Dakota,” he says.