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Troy Lowrie's work clothes confuse his staff. Sometimes he's spiffed-out in a courtly suit, fine leather shoes and a shiny watch. Some days he comes dressed in Dockers and a smart polo. On the occasions he wears blue jeans and a T-shirt, it's not uncommon for one his female employees to sidle up to him and ask, "What? You're not working today?"
But Troy Lowrie is working every day.
One evening last fall, after he opened his family's tenth club, PT's Gold in Glendale, Lowrie arrived in dress pants, a finely stitched black button-down shirt and an evening coat. The night was a big one: the debut of what Lowrie cleverly billed "Colorado's only fully nude bar with alcohol."
In February 1999, Lowrie purchased the Mile High Saloon at 4451 East Virginia Avenue for a bargain price of $2 million. Even though Lowrie's new club was located just two blocks from Shotgun Willie's, one of Colorado's most popular adult clubs -- and one that had driven the Mile High Saloon into the ground -- Lowrie was eager to act on the property, since it came with all the right paperwork. The club already had a liquor license and a sexually oriented business permit, which meant there wouldn't be a high-publicity showdown between Lowrie and his neighbors. He just needed to get the permits switched into his name, and all that took was a majority vote by the Glendale city council.
The first time Lowrie opened the door to his new building, the floor was covered with more duct tape than carpet. Lowrie immediately began to replicate the style made famous by his father, Hal. Construction workers replaced the single, large stage with several small stages to give the club a crowded, dancers-on-islands effect. They put up angled mirrors for walls, so that while a customer's direct vision would be on sensory overload, his peripheral vision would be filled in with flesh-colored movements. Then Lowrie added the touch he himself had made famous: a circle of television sets above the bar, always tuned to sports channels. Neon lights were hung, speakers began to shake with music and clothing started to come off.
At first Lowrie's new club, operating on temporary permits, didn't exactly set the street on fire. Competition was tough, and regulars from the old Mile High Saloon weren't adjusting well to the new, upscale entertainment. So Lowrie loaded the club with obvious gimmicks: A porn star came to dance for a few nights, he offered two-for-one drink specials, and he set up a nice lunch buffet.
But one day while he was eating lunch himself, he got a better idea. If he could shrink the liquor license, so to speak, to exclude the VIP room upstairs, then he could use the space to let women dance without any clothes -- just as long as he could keep customers from sneaking booze into the area. The idea was so fantastic, Lowrie thought, "I'm surprised my dad didn't think of it first."
Lowrie went to the Glendale city clerk and proposed it this way: If I don't want to sell alcohol in the dressing room, can I remove the dressing room from the licensed section of the club? Sure, the clerk said. If I don't want to sell booze upstairs in the VIP room, can I remove that area from the licensed area? Again, the clerk agreed.
Next, he asked the state liquor board for a ruling. Lowrie asked, essentially, "Can you make me sell alcohol where I don't want to?" The short and correct answer came back, and it was "no." It might have appeared that Lowrie was trying to skirt the laws by performing legalistic sweet talk. "People can call it whatever they want to, but he's not selling alcohol upstairs," says David Reitz, director of Colorado's Liquor Enforcement Division. "Once they did that [modified the liquor license], they are no longer under our jurisdiction."
"Originally, my thinking was that if it didn't work, it was just a gimmick that would bring the club some attention," Lowrie says. "But it did work."
On the first night that fall evening, while Lowrie stood off to the side in an evening coat, Ron, a regular patron, paid for the right to be the first man to witness full nudity at PT's Gold. He selected the dancer of his choice, a tall, thin, olive-skinned woman with a long, jet-black mane. She offered her hand and led Ron up the flight of stairs.
Once there, Ron sank into a pillowy couch as the dancer took to a small, circular, knee-high stage directly in front of him. Leopard-skin print blanketed the room, from the carpet to the chair covers; off to the side, but no less worthy of attention, a taxidermied lion named Elvis stood tall on his hind legs, with paws and fangs outstretched, frozen in a permanently eager position.
On the circular stage, the dancer undressed herself completely, then lay on her back, stretched out her legs and dug her heels into Ron's shoulders. She then began moving as if she were riding a bicycle, very slowly, using Ron's shoulders as the pedals.