(Note: This story appears in the November 2021 issue of ED Magazine)
*Story by Larry Kaplan
CLUB SINROCK Manager Jessica Armstrong still battles the instinct to bartend, but she knows she’s got the whole club to worry about, not just the patrons bellying up for drinks.
CLUB SINROCK manager Jessica Armstrong had six years of experience bartending at sports bars and adult nightclubs and then managing two clubs for Spearmint Rhino before assuming her current role five years ago. CLUB SINROCK stands out on a playing field of nearly 200 Portland clubs. Armstrong is the driving force that makes that happen.
ED: You managed Wild Orchid and Spearmint Rhino previous to your current position. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a female manager with entertainers? Does this help when recruiting entertainers since they presumably know typically, a female manager won’t sexually harass them?
ARMSTRONG: Yeah, I think it gives me an advantage, getting in the door initially with entertainers, comforting them, even if it would be the same with a male manager. I often hear “It’s so nice to have a female on my side.” But I don’t function any differently than Tim or any male managers or apply any different rules.
ED: Tim explained how every detail from the moment they walk in the door at a CLUB SINROCK is critical to him. You only get one chance to make a great first impression. If a component of creating that great first impression is, hey, it’s a woman, that’s cool, I’m going to get treated right; there’s nothing wrong with that.
ARMSTRONG: That’s so funny because so many clubs don’t have a female manager experience. So when I come up and explain, “Hey, I’m the manager, what’s up?” They respond, “You’re the manager? Oh, that’s cool. I think it’s cool that there’s a female manager.”
It’s the same with customers. I’ll wear a cute dress showing a bit of cleavage. Customers are surprised when they see me with my earpiece and my headset in. They’ll say, is that the manager? I think customers are not used to seeing a female.
ED: Right, a female in a position of authority in a club. Does that help you with customers who might get out of line? In terms of calming them down?
ARMSTRONG: Yes, it’s super easy for me. I always let my security take charge; that’s their job. But I can just look at a customer and they’ll put the mask on or drink a water. Sometimes people forget that all you have to do sometimes is just show somebody a smile. I get no backtalk.
ED: How do you meet the challenge of recruiting and retaining entertainers when they have so many options in the Portland area?
ARMSTRONG: Our club is the most beautiful ever, so once I get them, it’s pretty easy to keep entertainers just because our club is amazing. We use social media for recruitment. Once they get there, they never leave.
ED: I’m sure it isn’t just the club’s looks, but the way you treat them, too?
ARMSTRONG: Of course. They love the food, they love the treatment from the bartender and management. We never really have problems, but they love the fact that we always have their back, so there’s nothing to ever worry about. Once they walk in, they’re already feeling like family.
ED: With all the clubs in Portland, how do you ensure that CLUB SINROCK stands out from the others to lure potential customers?
ARMSTRONG: Our customer service is a 10+, no matter what, so I never worry about that. Our food is a 10+ as well. Some people come in and aren’t hungry, but they look at a menu and decide to order something. Then they’re hooked on our food.
“I always let my security take charge; that’s their job. But I can just look at a customer and they’ll put the mask on or drink a water. Sometimes people forget that all you have to do sometimes is just show somebody a smile. I get no backtalk.” — Jessica Armstrong
ED: Do you emphasize food in the social media to get them through the door in the first place if they’re not familiar with the club?
ARMSTRONG: I do. We usually promote our steaks, but all of our food is amazing. All of our dancers order food. We have customers that don’t even come inside; they order food and want curbside service. We also have the Vault, our unique, exclusive VIP room; a tucked-away private chamber where customers go to forget about the world outside.
ED: You manage a full bar, restaurant, and on-site gaming? That sounds like a lot of different responsibilities. How do you juggle it all?
ARMSTRONG: I love it. I have outstanding bar staff, door guys, and cooks. So I just made sure to have good people with me. I’ve hired a great staff to ensure the opportunity to just manage.
ED: What’s the best part of your job, and what’s most challenging?
ARMSTRONG: I love being able to put fires out with customers, dancers, or even employees. It’s easy to look at them, say the right thing, and it puts the fire out — I guess being able to know how to read situations. My biggest challenge is fighting the reflex to be a bartender again, not being a helicopter mom.
ED: How is working for Tim (Lyons) different than other owners and regional managers for whom you’ve worked?
ARMSTRONG: The first word that comes to mind is family. Working with Tim is working for a family. Everybody — be it a DJ, bartender, dancer, or door guy — feels welcome when they come to work. Our dogs even know each other!
ED: What are some of the advantages of working for a company with four clubs?
ARMSTRONG: Recently, I got to go to Alaska and work at a gay club we own there as well as the four adult clubs. That was awesome to work for Pride Week. It’s pretty dope that our owner also owns the gay club.
ED: What’s one aspect of your job that’s an unexpected reality, an obligation or responsibility wouldn’t have fathomed before this that’s now second nature to you?
ARMSTRONG: I’ve never done door work. I’ve never had to deal with those issues before. Now it’s second nature. If somebody comes in too drunk or not dressed adequately, I can just tell them, “Not today, maybe tomorrow. Please come back.”
ED: If you had other managers, both female and male, in a room, and you could share some advice, what would you tell them?
ARMSTRONG: Be patient. Patience has gotten me a lot of dancers and customers who’ve come back. And vigilance. Always watching out for what’s going on around you.
Larry Kaplan has for 20 years been the Legal Correspondent for ED Publications. In addition, Mr. Kaplan is a business broker in the sale and purchase of adult nightclubs and adult retail stores and the Executive Director of the ACE of Michigan adult nightclub state trade association. Contact Larry Kaplan at (313) 815-3311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.