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Joe Redner, Tampa’s long-reigning strip club king, still has something to say

A conversation with Redner about life as a landlord, Tampa’s nude history and what gets his blood boiling now.
Joe Redner, 82, sits near an original sign for his famous Mons Venus strip club at his business office in Tampa.
Joe Redner, 82, sits near an original sign for his famous Mons Venus strip club at his business office in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jul. 9|Updated Jul. 15

TAMPA — Besides being the high-profile proprietor of the Mons Venus nude establishment near Raymond James Stadium, businessman Joe Redner also makes a living leasing out properties he owns around town.

One notable tenant: the Internal Revenue Service — an agency Redner says used to routinely audit him, hunting for some nefariousness they did not find.

“That’s the one thing I like to tell people I own: I’m the IRS’ landlord,” Redner, 82, said recently.

Today, in sandals and a graying ponytail, he works from an office in a beige warehouse around the corner from the Mons Venus and across from the lucrative Cigar City Brewing, where he was an investor. He’s best known for battling police and politicians who went after the lap dance business model that made Tampa infamous. He got arrested more than 150 times, ran for office and taunted public officials from his strip club marquee on busy Dale Mabry Highway.

A conversation with the still-and-always-outspoken Redner.

What businesses are you involved in these days? The Mons Venus ...

Yeah, the Mons.

Mostly, I’m a landlord. I have the Cigar City (Brewing) property across the street. I lease to them ... I’m a landlord for a warehouse out on Adamo Drive ... I’ve got a piece (of property) on Kennedy Boulevard ... I own a Wendy’s (that’s closed and supposed to turn into a dispensary).

I have Florida Avenue Brewing, but they jacked my rent up (so) I bought a piece of property in Wesley Chapel. It’s doing very well. It has a restaurant and a tasting room. (He also has the Brew Bus, which gives local brewery tours.)

I’ve got about 12 houses I rent to people that don’t have a lot so I don’t charge a lot.

Is the Mons Venus the most successful business and the one you like best?

The Mons is the best business (but he doesn’t necessarily like it more or less than the others). The Mons is the Mons.

A dancer collects her tips from the stage floor at the Mons Venus club.
Times (2012)
A dancer collects her tips from the stage floor at the Mons Venus club. Times (2012)

I need to do something, though: I need a new sign. (His old marquee was replaced by a digital one.) This one needs more animation. The man across the street (at the competing 2001 Odyssey nude club) is going to take my business if I don’t watch out. He does a good job.

I think there’s enough business for both of us.

You know, we changed the format (at the Mons Venus) a little bit (adding private dance rooms). We’re getting more money per customer but we’re not getting as many customers.

Back in the day, you used your marquee sign to poke public officials and police who were fighting strip clubs. You put up some pointed slogans.

I have a list. (A printable one: “Hey Mayor Greco Censor This.”)

As long as they keep putting women in office, I’ll be all right. Never when we’ve had a female mayor did I get raided. I think they have more compassion and common sense than men do.

After the the Tampa City Council passed a rule keeping dancers and customers 6 feet apart, the Mons Venus displayed this sign taunting the mayor to enforce it. 
Times (1999)
After the the Tampa City Council passed a rule keeping dancers and customers 6 feet apart, the Mons Venus displayed this sign taunting the mayor to enforce it. Times (1999)
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Does the strip club serve alcohol?

No. We’re nude (nude clubs don’t serve alcohol). And no sneaking it in. The stuff that breaks the law? You’ve got to be crazy.

The IRS used to audit me all the time. But they never found anything because I pay my taxes.

When you don’t do anything wrong, how powerful that makes you. You can look at all these people and say “do your worst.”

How did the pandemic effect business?

It shut us down for months. People were afraid. It’s never recovered, the amount of customers we had — that’s why we put the (private) rooms in. We’re doing OK. People are being a little more frugal.

How has the business changed over the years?

Our claim to fame is we have not changed through all the arrests and everything. The interaction between the dancer and customer is exactly the same.

How many times have you been arrested?

Over 150 times. Lewd and lascivious .... indecent exposure ... allowing those things. Zoning violations, that was their favorite. The thing is, I studied the law, I looked at the caselaw, I looked at what the courts of Florida were saying, what was a crime, what wasn’t a crime. I knew what I could defend and I stuck by it.

When I started out, I went to jail with the girls. They took me to jail for being the manager, the owner — “allowing,” they called it.

Tampa Police  arrest a dancer at the Mons Venus. Times (2000)
Tampa Police arrest a dancer at the Mons Venus. Times (2000)

Then they stopped taking me (to jail). I tried to get them to take me. I said some outrageous things. (He said them to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor when she was still working in the police department). I was trying to get her to arrest me. She wouldn’t arrest me.

I saw her in court one day and I went over and apologized profusely. She said she understood. Very gracious.

When (Bob) Buckhorn (who helped push the rule to keep dancers and customers 6 feet apart when he was on the city council) ran for mayor, I said “You going to bother me, Bob?” He said “I’ve got better things to do, Joe.” I turned around and left.

I voted for him.

How long has it been since you’ve had trouble with the authorities?

It’s been awhile. They did bother us a little bit recently (over required human trafficking signs in the club. Court records show the case was dismissed).

I defended it. I could have paid the ($265) ticket. The prosecutor, he threw the case out.

Mon Venus owner Joe Redner states his case to city council concerning a ban on contact at adult clubs. The city council voted for the law after the hearing that lasted more than 13 hours at the Tampa Convention Center.
Times (1999)
Mon Venus owner Joe Redner states his case to city council concerning a ban on contact at adult clubs. The city council voted for the law after the hearing that lasted more than 13 hours at the Tampa Convention Center. Times (1999)

Tampa’s been called the strip club capitol. Is that true?

If it was about where are the best clubs, yes. But if it was about the number of strip clubs, no.

But it was publicized — the authorities, the police, (things like out-of-town sports figures getting arrested in Tampa). So it was the publicity that got us the reputation.

I was in a train in Europe. When I said “I’m from Tampa,” they said. “Oh, the Mons Venus.”

What gets your blood boiling these days?

The most recent would be the abortion ruling ... the other thing is the environment. The frog in the cold water that starts to boil and it’s not smart enough to get out. They just don’t understand what’s happening. I’m kind of glad I won’t be around to see it. But then I think I will be, because it’s coming fast.

(Redner ran unsuccessfully for office several times, including for city council and state senate.) Do you regret those runs for office?

Oh no. I’ve never regretted anything in my life that didn’t hurt somebody.

Are you well? (Redner previously had stage 4 lung cancer, but with treatment was cancer-free for ten years.)

I have cancer again (but) it’s not stage 4. They think radiation will knock it out. I’m already eating the best I possibly can. No sugar, whole fruit. I’m a raw vegan mostly, except for beans and rice. I work out (on equipment from a gym he previously owned in Hyde Park). I do the treadmill, get myself gasping.

I’m doing my thing to fight the cancer and I let the doctors do their thing. I don’t argue or fight with them.

When you get your new sign, will you put anything political up there?

You know what? I should.

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