It’s not that poles are more plentiful here than in other American cities—though they almost certainly are—they’re just, well, different.
Portland’s strip clubs are Portlandy: fueled by indie rock, local beer, Oregon spirits and self-sure dancers who move to their own beat and will have any mook who tries to fondle them tossed into the street without a second thought.
Yes, we have a few clubs where Beaverton bros drink bottled Lite and say rude things about the ladies entertaining them. And, yes, some Portland strip clubs witness illicit, exploitative or violent acts—just like Portland shopping malls.
In this city, though, such clubs are outliers. Most of our strip clubs are laid-back, female-friendly and relatively inviting to a wide range of people. I thought that long before we compiled this guide to our favorite clubs, but I’m doubly sure now that Willamette Week writers have visited 40 of them. We found that Portland’s strip bars are a lot like Portland’s non-strip bars—but with extra entertainment options.
This guide (which you can find in paper form at these locations) takes you to our favorite strip clubs in town, from Acropolis to the VIP Room. Along the way, we chatted with dancers about how patrons should act and got beauty tips also applicable for accountants, cops and teachers. We also ate a lot of steak, plotted out places to pregame and witnessed some of Portland’s odder-themed strip shows before taking on the great burlesque debate.
Our goal here isn’t to whitewash disturbing incidents tied to strip clubs—the 13-year-old who authorities say was exploited at Beaverton’s Stars or the shootings outside East Portland’s Mystic and Pitiful Princess—but most clubs aren’t like that. So we’re highlighting the clubs we like, and that we think you’ll like when you’re in the mood.
There are, of course, 100 reasons to argue that a socially conscious newspaper shouldn’t get involved in the strip-club scene. But so long as Portlanders like strip clubs, we think the city deserves a literate guide to the best of them. This, we’re confident, is the best such guide ever created.
For me, a strip club is a place where someone dances without clothing for admirers who reward their performance with cash tips. If you’ve been to a couple of these, you probably know that. If not, check out Magic Garden sometime. It’s just a bar where people are occasionally naked. That doesn’t seem weird to me.
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