“I wasn’t expecting it to be this nice,” says Rashanda Robertson, 33, an Atlanta native who’s in the city for graduate school.
Tonight is her first visit to a strip club. To her left and right are clusters of women, outnumbering the men. Women in heels. Women who teach. Women who advocate as social workers. Professional women. Heterosexual women. Women just like her.
Unlike many strip clubs — which are narrow, dark and dominated by men — Stadium, with color-changing chandeliers lighting up 14,000 square feet, has become a chic hot spot for young African American women. They host bachelorette and birthday parties here, buy rounds of drinks and chitchat while other women work the pole. The club is a bucket-list item for black yuppies. It falls somewhere between Dupont Circle day parties and concerts at The Park at 14th club.
They swarm to Stadium’s happy hour — $10 for unlimited drinks from 6 to 9 p.m. — but you can also find them any night of the week. The setting has become so popular it will be the backdrop for the reality show “Strip Club Queens.” The show, produced by Newton Media Group, will follow the lives of five Stadium dancers and one waitress. No network has signed yet, says club co-owner James Tru Redding, but three channels have expressed interest.
The club has black leather couches smartly decorated with red pillows. Flat-screen TVs hang against stone walls. Black coffee tables fit for a swanky bachelor pad dot the floor. Then there’s the stage, ornate poles and pull-up bars.
“It doesn’t really look like a strip club,” Robertson says.
By 7:45, the crowd is livening up. There are about 30 men but twice as many women dancing to Chris Brown’s “Strip” and other hip-hop tunes. The “entertainment” have removed their mesh shirts and skin-tight dresses, leaving nothing but a garter to hold their tips.
Male patrons thank them with dollar bills, but it’s a sea of women who truly show their gratitude every week, coming back again and again.
“Sixty percent of the club on any night is women,” Redding says.
From the bottom to the top
Yeah, I made it to the top, took a seat, still sittin’
Man, I’m up in Stadium in D.C. still tippin,
She coulda paid tuition five times, still strippin’
— Drake in Waka Flocka Flame’s 2011 single “Round of Applause”
Stadium opened almost three years ago, withstanding protests from the Ward 5 Improvement Association that challenged the club’s certification as a non-sexually oriented business and possible zoning violations. It was cleared of violating any zoning regulations in late 2010, Redding says. (Ward 5 Improvement Association President Don Padou did not return a request for comment.)