Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, the Puerto Rican musician who performs as Bad Bunny and notched this year’s top-selling album and Spotify stream, stopped by Sin City Cabaret on his way to Philadelphia’s Made in America show on Sept. 4. That night, he gifted his entourage $50,000 to spend on dancers, dinners, and liquor at the Passyunk Avenue strip club.
It was a publicity coup for the club’s founder, Konstantine “Gus” Drakopoulos, who hustled to draw pro athletes and singers to his family’s former Sin City club in the Bronx. That club, which was in a gentrifying neighborhood, closed in 2018 after the state found that he “failed to exercise adequate supervision,” and that his name, not just his partners’, should have been on its liquor license. Pennsylvania gave him a license the following year, and Sin City Cabaret opened in 2020, just in time for pandemic restrictions.
Philadelphia “has been behind a lot of other cities” as to the condition of its locally owned strip clubs, and that created openings for fancier “New York-style” newcomers, says Kali Morgan, owner of Passional Boutique and Sexploratorium on South Street, which sells clothing and accessories to club performers. Their pay was better before the 1990s, she said, when clubs shifted from paying by the hour to charging dancers a fee and treating them as contractors.
Drakapoulos met with The Inquirer to talk about his club. His responses are edited for clarity and brevity.
With Sin City in the Bronx, we had a great club, cool people, but the city made it hard for us. I felt it was the politicians and developers gentrifying the South Bronx, they wanted us out. It’s like a new city now.
I still have a club in New York, the Show Palace in Queens. The dancers are fully nude, and it’s nonalcoholic, so you can get in there when you’re 18.
The club we had in the Bronx, lots of people in the music industry came there, it was their hangout, and now they come here when there’s a show in Philadelphia.
People used to go to a Hispanic club, or an African American club, or a white-boy club. At our first club, we started a place where you get it all, and that’s what we do here. A diverse look is a recipe for our success. I figured, why cater to some people when you can cater to everyone?
About 32% of our customers here are female. Bachelorette parties, or with their boyfriends or husbands, or in groups. When I got into the business, there was this unwritten rule: No woman was allowed into the clubs unless they were accompanied by a male companion. So I started noticing these girls in line asking the bouncer if he could pose as their date. I thought about it and started, on Thursday nights, what we called Stripper Idol, like American Idol. Ladies before midnight get a free drink. Now women come here, same as men.
There used to be a club here, the Vanity Grand. We bought it for cash. We put a wrecking ball to it. Construction was 90% complete when the pandemic hit, and we had to stop until that August.
We opened in September  with masks, sneeze guards, and a promise that crowds would go no more than 50% capacity [which totals 1,500 people]. That’s all right when you’re a diner and you can deliver, but it’s horrible when you have a club that relies on the human touch, momentum, energy. And they closed everyone from December to February  after the spike in COVID cases.
So in 2021, we did a soft reopening by word of mouth. They lifted restrictions by June. Normally you’d open with a lot of noise, advertising, radio, pack the place because people feed off people. But we kept things calm.
We fill up on weekends. Weeknights, maybe 40% of capacity. We’re going to start opening for lunch this fall. We’re talking to the health department about our plans for a cigar room. We are still better known in New York than in Philly.
We’ve been pretty lucky finding people to work for us. We have 50 people working here [on a busy night], 300 or 400 on the roster in all.
You know the dancers are independent contractors — they come in any time they want, wear what they want, dance with whomever they want. Our dancers make from around $400 a night to well over $2,000. [They pay the club up to $100 a shift.] I tell them this isn’t the real move; it’s a stepping stone — do it for the next few years to make money and get out. You don’t want to make a career of it.
We also outsource security. Then the bottle servers, they get hourly wages, tips, and bonuses. They can make $200 a night, mostly from tips. I’ve seen those girls make over $1,000.
We do get white-collar clientele. They’ll come here to celebrate a birthday, a bachelor or bachelorette party, the closing of a deal, or to schmooze a customer. The car dealerships up on Essington Avenue, the salesmen come here to have a few beers and kick back before going home.
My parents had the club in New York. But I was a stockbroker, on the New York Stock Exchange, I started that when I was 19 years old. It was just like that movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. I got recruited young, hungry, and with a work ethic.
They trained me to be this bull, who went and sold a stock. [Drakopoulos was found guilty of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in an insider-trading case in 2003 and was sentenced to probation. New York authorities in 2008 agreed to waive a ban that prohibits people with convictions from operating a bar.]
I met a customer in Texas — he was a fellow Greek; he knew my father — we ended up becoming best friends. He owned strip clubs. And he took me to clubs that other Greeks own. I came to find these Greeks down in Texas own strip clubs, like Greeks owned diners in New Jersey and New York. [The customer, Lampros Moumouris, was a partner in the Bronx club and became a partner in the Philadelphia club; he died in 2021. Frank Antonio Aleman, a photographer and a senior manager at Sin City in the Bronx, is also a partner in the Philadelphia club.]
My wife is Greek, too. Her family is from Crete, mine is from Kalamata, where the olives grow. We met in the old neighborhood. She’s my balance. She’s a speech therapist and a very conservative person.
Staff writer Ryan Briggs contributed to this report.
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