For the old guard at Fieldens, an after-hours, members-only club on West Broad Street, the new management brought the wrong kind of bunnies for Easter.
While churches across town prepared for Easter sunrise service, Bentley Restaurant Enterprises took over the details of service till sunrise. Frazier Boyd, who owns the Paper Moon strip clubs, is part-owner in Bentley and oversaw the opening Saturday night. Meanwhile, club members and former employees worry that new management doesn't want the club — traditionally associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — to stay gay.
For evidence they point to the new staff of nubile young things in hot pants and bustiers. Previously, the Web site had broadcast the club's mission statement as encouraging “socialization, specifically geared to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community and its' supporters (friends).” By Monday, mention of the LGBT community had been edited out. A name change also may be in the works, either officially or through a soft campaign, to rechristen the club as the Mansion.
Nova Edwards, who's worked the door at Fieldens since 2006, calls the change “outrageous.” Most troubling, she says, are rumors that a patron was removed early Sunday morning for twirling, or spinning around dancing - as if a bit too gay. Management says the customer was removed, as he had been previously, for other reasons.
Edwards also says that after the venue closed for renovations March 8 — Boyd's team updated the notoriously grubby interior — she wasn't given notice that when it reopened she'd be out of a job. “Everybody who used to be there is completely gone,” she says.
While Fieldens will stay under the present ownership, Mike Love, Fieldens' president and general manager for nearly a decade, says employees were given notice of the management change in early March. Love says the new team then jettisoned the old staff.
Love says he's devoted to the business, but was left with no choice. The club-going gay community has gone more mainstream over the years, and taken its money along. Membership has dropped well below 600 and weekend nights averaged fewer than 100 guests. After pouring his own money into the business, he says he had no choice but to hand over management.
“I just find it funny that people are concerned about it now,” he says. Members were distressed to find that the entrance fee and drink prices had increased. “It's kind of spiraled into gossip and rumor and B.S.,” Love says, fueled in part by Boyd's strip-club pedigree.
The club's new general manager, Brad Sittler, is taking pains to make sure people understand “we don't have poles” at the new club, though he emphasizes he would never discriminate against a stripper who wanted to become a member.