Wild Orchid managers sent a letter to Midtown business owners offering free advertisements on the strip club’s controversial digital sign on the corner of Virginia Street and California Avenue.
“We will be removing a lot of the more provocative images in favor of more artistic and community friendly imagery,” according to the letter sent by Wild Orchid Manager Ken Bell. “We will continue to advertise our location as well as the other businesses owned and operated by our company but they will be done in a less provocative manner.”
According to the letter, the idea for changing the messaging on the sign came before a July 7 Reno City Council workshop discussing prohibition of animated digital signs and messages that depict services offered inside the club. The proposed ordinance would also prohibit the Wild Orchid from selling alcohol since it is not in an area zoned for adult interactive cabarets. The proposed city ordinance would give Wild Orchid two years to either stop serving alcohol, which would change it to an all-nude, 18-and-over business, or move to another area of town where zoning allows the current 21-and-over model.
RENO GAZETTE JOURNAL
Strip club owner goes after Reno Council with digital sign
Wild Orchid’s lawyer Mark Thierman argued in an RGJ column that the ordinance would violate their First Amendment rights to free expression. Dancers and operators who attended the meeting agreed, adding the ordinance could put them out of business.
Melissa Holland, the co-founder and executive director of Awaken, a nonprofit helping women and children get out of the sex industry, argued in an RGJ column that pornography is not protected free speech and the U.S. Supreme Court allows the community at large to determine the definition public obscenity.
But with this recent change, both those arguments may be moot.
Bell said he doesn’t have a problem with his 7 year old daughter seeing the images previously on the sign — women on stripper poles, wearing bikinis or underwear or taking selfies inside of cars while showing cleavage, for example.
“But we’re kind of immune to the nature of the business because we’ve been in it for 20 years,” he said. “I was using that as a gauge, but other people don’t have that same standard. We don’t have problems with what the girls do here, so I don’t have a problem with the sign.
“But what we see as ‘What’s the big deal?’ someone else can go ‘Oh my god!’ Could be the clothing or the message it conveys — people all have different experiences so we don’t all come to the same point. And that’s what brought us to where we’re at today.”
Bell said he, other managers and owners of the strip club, realized they need to be part of the Midtown community since they went to local high schools, graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno and opened the strip club 20 years ago. Reno made them who they are today, he said.
“We need to get back to what Reno’s about and what the community’s about,” he said. “That’s being part of the community and not wanting to stand separate from it.”
Bell said they were nervous approaching the Midtown District Reno members to offer the new service, but the group seemed open to the change and new involvement.
“Speaking personally, I don’t have a big problem with the Wild Orchid,” said Recycled Records owner and President of the Midtown District Reno, Paul Doege. “I’m a believer that part of the appeal of Midtown is that it’s not defined by a single word. Parts are counterculture, parts are high-end, parts are gentrification. It has a little bit of everything in it.”
In the past, Doege said the Wild Orchid has not been good neighbors, but he doesn’t hold it against them if they are willing to change and join the Midtown family.
“The whole idea of taking down suggestive pictures to put up your logo, sheesh, who am I to argue with that?” Doege said.
Bell said they received more than a dozen new graphics from Midtown businesses. Today, the sign included graphics for several businesses, including Shea’s Tavern and other strip clubs owned by Keshmiri Entertainment Group. It also included a “Welcome to Midtown” message.
Bell said he has more to add this weekend.
“We don’t need to be in everyone’s faces as much,” he said. “Everyone knows what goes on inside and we took a step back to say, ‘This is what we’re going to do’.”
Mike Higdon is the city life reporter at the RGJ and can be found on Instagram @MillennialMike and on Facebook at Mike Higdon, Reno Life.
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