Why COVID-19 Actually Made Interactions More Intimate At An El Paso Topless Bar

The WYNC podcast “Death, Sex & Money” profiles the pandemic’s impact on The Red Parrot.

By Laura RiceMarch 11, 2021 12:46 pm, ,

“Death, Sex & Money” host Anna Sale says her team was in the middle of preparing its latest episode of the podcast when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would lift the statewide mask mandate and limits on business capacity. The podcast focused on an El Paso topless bar called The Red Parrot.

“So we reached out to Darius [Belcher], the club owner, to say, ‘how is this going to change your reality?’ And frankly, you know, he’s been limited to 50%  capacity until this week, but didn’t quite make that capacity because business is so much slower,” Sale said. “But he did tell us he’s going to keep voluntary constraints in place. Masks are required. Hand sanitizer is going to be all over the place, still asking people to keep a distance inside his club.”

Sale says those changes have led to a different atmosphere inside the club, “more like a library” than a party, according to one patron. That’s in part because masks remain on unless a dancer is seated at a table with a patron having a drink.

“So she’ll lower her mask and then she’ll spend, you know, an hour or so talking to them,” Sale said. “That was one of the most interesting things about talking to the people who go to The Red Parrot. Just how different and how, in some ways, deeper their relationships have all become.”

Sale said, in one example, a relationship between a dancer and a patron turned from a business relationship into more of a friendship.

“She used to have him saved as a dollar amount in her phone until fairly recently when he offered to help her out with an electric bill at her house,” Sale said. “And she upgraded him to having his name be saved in her phone.”

But the impact has not been positive in other ways – namely, financially. Belcher told “Death, Sex & Money” about his frustration that The Red Parrot was not eligible for federal support.

“It hurts me, you know, to be in the position that we are in right now, to know that any day, you know, the way things are, that it could be our last day, you know, and not by any fault of what I’ve done, not because I’ve mismanaged money, not because I’ve got 17 strippers pregnant, you know, not for any of those things,” Belcher said.

The episode of “Death, Sex & Money” focused on The Red Parrot in El Paso is available now.

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