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Tampa Bay one-upped by a vegan strip club town

By Ernest Hooper | Times Columnist
Published: December 5, 2017 Updated: December 7, 2017 at 03:40 PM
Vegan strip club owner Johnny Diablo Zukle, owner of a vegan strip club in Portland, Ore., says he will probably go down as the "the vegan Colonel Sanders of the strip club world." [NIGEL DUARA | AP]

I have an old high school friend, Andrea, who now lives in Portland, Ore., and so consequently every time I come across news about her adopted hometown, I reach out to her.

Whether it’s some weather phenomenon, a story about the legendary Voodoo Doughnuts or a friend looking for a good restaurant in the Pacifc Northwest city, I almost always drop her a note when Portland pops into my head.

I even reach out her when the NBA’s Trailblazers make the news, even though she’s apt to be more familiar with Damian Lewis than Damian Lillard.

Our stars crossed again last week when WalletHub ranked Portland No. 2 in adult entertainment establishments, ahead of No. 4 Tampa Bay. Clearly we’ve slipped from the days when a national conference call of NFL writers started with a moment of silence because the old Tanga Lounge had caught fire that morning.

But I digress. I asked Andrea, "How did Portland get to No. 2?"

"Well," she replied, "We have a vegan strip club."

Andrea possesses a wicked sense of humor, but she wasn’t joking. Casa Diablo specializes in vegan dishes and has actually earned some media attention in recent years. If you’re wondering why vegans would dine at strip clubs, I have no answer for you.

In 2013, one of the dancers at Casa Diablo had an innocent Twitter exchange with politician Cory Booker that went viral.

And earlier this year, the site Broadly reported on a "wicked feud" between the owner of a steakhouse strip club and Casa Diablo owner Johnny Zukle, who opened a second vegan establishment next to the steakhouse.

I swear I’m not making this up.

The feud has resulted in the steakhouse erecting a fence between the two establishments, but Zukle says his role is bound to fade because he has bigger goals than vegan strip club owner. His long-term goal is to get into real estate and perhaps build an entire vegan city.

"But I’m the founder of the club, so I’ll always be around," Zukle told Broadly. "It’s kind of like KFC and Colonel Sanders: They’ll just use me as a mascot. I’ll be the vegan Colonel Sanders of the strip club world."

Not having a vegan strip club may have dropped Tampa Bay down in the rankings, but all things considered, it’s probably a good thing.

That’s all I’m saying.