It was 19 minutes before midnight on a near-freezing Friday night in south Denver and the dancer had to decide whether the man in front of her was cop or customer.
Customer, she determined, and began guiding him toward a private room where, in exchange for $600, they would have sex. But before she could, the man sent a cue to his fellow officers — a so-called “bust signal” they had practiced in advance. The sting was on.
Uniformed police moved through the club. As they did, one unbashful dancer reached out and fondled an officer, who shoved her hand away and ticketed her for public indecency. Her coworker, the one who’d misread the undercover officer, was arrested for prostitution.
Those events of March 31, as detailed in a city licensing order Monday, now threaten to close PT’s Showclub, a decades-old cabaret at 1601 W. Evans Ave. Owners or lawyers for the club must appear at an Aug. 10 hearing and explain that it’s not a den of prostitution.
“We are working with the city to resolve this alleged violation,” said a spokesman for Houston-based RCI Hospitality Holdings, which bought PT’s and four other strip clubs in the city two years ago. “We have a zero-tolerance policy in place towards any illegal activity.”
One night in mid-January, an officer on the Denver Police Department’s vice team received an anonymous tip that PT’s dancers were selling sex and that young employees “were actively pressured” to do so “by older members of the club,” according to Monday’s order.
That led to the March sting operation and this week’s decision by the Department of Excise and Licenses to accuse PT’s of 10 licensing violations, such as soliciting prostitution, engaging in prostitution, keeping a place of prostitution, disturbing the peace and indecency.
The department is threatening to rescind the club’s adult cabaret license and tavern liquor license. The Aug. 10 hearing will allow PT’s to make its case for keeping them.
Eric Escudero, a spokesman for Excise and Licenses, said that the city hasn’t revoked an adult cabaret license in at least a decade. About 93 percent of hearing orders, like the one PT’s received Monday, result in fines and probation rather than revocations, he noted.
RCI also recently purchased a downtown Denver retail unit, where the company plans to open its military-themed Bombshells restaurant.