Only a 10 minute drive from downtown Portland, its gravel driveway, car park and unassuming exterior are given away by a single white with black writing that says:. From the outside, Casa Diablo looks more like an old house with a large wrap around deck than a strip club. Inside, tells a different story: the bar is set at the back wall and the centre piece of the room is a large stage with several stripper poles reaching up to the ceiling.
One sits against the stage, where a topless woman in a thong dances, and an older couple — late 50s or early 60s — sit in a booth against one of the walls.
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One of the poles is being cleaned by a woman in her underwear and a dark, low cut crop top. The music feels vaguely punk rock. She loves working at Casa Diablo — the pay is good, Portland is a great place to live and she gets paid to stay in shape. A decade ago, it began its life as a family restaurant called The Pirates Tavern.
At the time, it was one of the only vegan restaurants in Portland. Before Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and other varieties of faux meat helped take the movement mainstream. But they were too chicken. When the financial crisis hit Portland inthe restaurant scene was the first to go under. As Zukle tells it, some of the first to fall were restaurants that had been around for a long time.
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He started to get nervous. And I said buh-bye and turned it into a strip club. The girls got the guys to come in. Zukle has been a vegan for more than 30 years.
That success was a long time coming. I see strip clubs fail all the time.
Portland is so vegan even its strip clubs ban meat
He recounts stories of being the only employee — announcing the dancers on stage, running to the kitchen to make and serve a burger and then playing a DJ set. For the first promotion they put red ink around the bills to make it look like vampire blood. He recounts the story over a bottle of kombucha. These little red blood rings around the bills are defacing public currency.
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Zukle is light on details about what happens next, other than to say that he disputes that its against the law, proves the Secret Service wrong and they leave, only to return a couple of weeks later. Eventually, the Secret Service returned a final time. He says he got all the publicity he could out of it and that his bartenders were pissed that every night they went home with fingers stained with red ink.
I broke all of the rules when I first opened up and I almost got arrested for some of them.
Portland police arrest 35 in black friday vegan strip club riot
On the clothes, of course. The Oregon State Constitution says, hey, your freedom of speech is guaranteed and protected. So I knew that if I got arrested, I could probably win. I was expecting them to come and arrest me. At one point the girls were saying, hey, if we get arrested, what are we going to do? Meaning, punters could pay to watch as much and as often as they wanted. It was, effectively, live pornography. Casa Diablo, and Johnny Zukle, are known for a lot of things.
In a few hours, the club will be almost at capacity, the girls will be dancing, hollering, giving lap dances and performing the notorious live sex shows. The vegan part got people to come in and the other stuff I did kept them. I try to be really fair with all of the employees and the dancers…compared to all the other strip clubs, I was ahead of the pack. And then they all started following. Pop culture writer and junkie using Medium as an archive for Music, Journalism and Podcasts.
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