Portland Is No Stranger to (Strange) Strip Clubs

Cory Booker's stripper acquaintance lives in a city that claims to have the most strip clubs per capita

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In a tale of tweeting between politician and stripper, one might expect the dancer to be typing away in Las Vegas or Los Angeles or even Tampa. But Cory Booker has been exchanging private flirty messages with a stripper who hails from a place largely known as a foodie hub and hipster haven: Portland, Ore. And odds actually weren’t so bad that she would hail from Rose City, where residents have long claimed to have the most strip clubs per capita.

Trying to deflect questions about the back-and-forth on Twitter, a Booker spokesman cracked a joke about the particular establishment where the stripper works, Casa Diablo. “The most shocking part of the story was learning that there is a vegan strip club in Portland,” he said in a statement. But more shocking to some might be that the town of roughly 600,000 has more than 60 strips clubs, while neighboring cities of similar size like Seattle have about 10.

Portland isn’t the only American locale laying claim to erotic dancing superlatives. As straight-laced Mitt Romney descended on the Republican National Convention in Tampa last year, residents proudly declared “Cigar City” to be the strip club capital of these United States. This prompted a series of stories about Florida-bound Sarah Palin impersonators who knew their way around a pole and investigations from outfits like Politifact, who unearthed an economic study placing Tampa in third when it came to adult entertainment establishments per capita, behind both Las Vegas and Cincinnati, Ohio.

(MORE: America’s 10 Strangest Strip Clubs)

But in an article for a Pulitzer Prize-winning alternative weekly in Portland, a Wilamette Weekly author disputed that this study settled any arguments. “Adult establishments,” argued Marty Smith, is a far broader category than strip clubs, including irrelevant bookstores and video shops. Crunching numbers from a listings site called the Ultimate Strip Club List, Smith determined that Portland was indeed Numero Uno. Per data from that site and the U.S. Census Bureau, Portland has one strip club for roughly every 9,500 residents; Tampa has one for roughly every 11,500, while Las Vegas has one for about every 21,300.

Market research company IBISworld surveyed America’s exotic-dance landscape by state in 2012 and found that the states with the most strip clubs are generally the states with the most people like Texas and California—with one exception. Of the nine states that are home to more than 3% of strip club establishments, eight are also among America’s ten most populous states. Oregon, meanwhile, has 3.6% of America’s strip clubs while ranking as the 30th most populous state.

In trying to answer why there is so much stripteasing going on in Portland, reporters have pointed to several rulings by the State Supreme Court that “ have rendered strip clubs and other sexually oriented businesses nearly untouchable.” Portland, renowned for its tattooed residents and free-spirited ways, is by far the state’s most populous city—and is, as its name implies, a port town where sailors come to call.

(MORE: Cory Booker Tweets with Stripper from Vegan Nudie Bar)

In a rundown of things to do in Portland, TIME recommended strip clubs as one of 10 “Things To Do,” partly for their unique spins on the trade:

The State Supreme Court has long protected the right of strip joints to host totally nude entertainment, so, of course, leave it to Portlanders to create a club for every taste: for instance, Casa Diablo [where Booker’s acquaintance works] serves only vegan food and allows its strippers to shed only non-animal-based clothing. Meanwhile, Acropolis Steakhouse serves up discounted, locally procured T-bones with your T. & A.

Regardless of which city is truly the sultan of striptease, that flashy sector of American business appears to be in fine health. IBISworld predicts that the $7.5 billion industry will grow 5% by 2017. Males with incomes above $50,000 account for about 70% of strip clubs’ revenue; women of all income levels account for about 5%.

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