Has Philadelphia's love of playful pop-up parks and life-affirming beer gardens taken an X-rated turn?
That's what we were left wondering Monday morning after spotting a tweet from PlanPhilly's Jim Saksa, who was covering an otherwise ho-hum City Council hearing on the Department of Licenses and Inspections.
Saksa wrote that Councilman-at-large David Oh mentioned that his office had received complaints about a number of unlicensed "pop-up events," including — gasp! — "pop-up strip clubs."
We here at Clout like to think we know what's going on around this fair city of ours. But, man, we've never heard of any pop-up strip clubs. So we called Oh for clarity.
"I call them pop-up go-go places," he told us. "I don't know if that's the right word."
This is no time for semantics, councilman. Are pop-up strip clubs really a thing? Do you need to know a secret password, à la Eyes Wide Shut?
"I'm not an expert," Oh said.
Fair enough. Here's the skinny: In West Philly and North Philly, at least two unlicensed clubs have sprouted up in vacant buildings on weekends, complete with booze and dancers.
Word about the clubs spread across social media, attracting the attention of, shall we say, legitimate gentlemen's clubs that were none too happy about losing business to competitors that presumably aren't paying city taxes or playing by zoning rules.
"An unregulated place could be more wild, or charge more money for wildness," Oh noted.
This is a symptom of a larger problem about which Oh said he often hears at civic meetings: L&I doesn't have late-night inspectors to respond to complaints about activities that aren't exactly on the up-and-up.
Usually, the complaints pertain to people partying in abandoned factory buildings. The strip clubs pose an additional challenge as unregulated businesses.
"The community's concern is, who is running these businesses? Are they criminals?" Oh asked. "The city should have some way of responding."
'Donald Trump' opposes soda tax
Apparently, even POTUS is opposed to Mayor Kenney's soda tax — at least according to a petition that the Ax the Bev Tax coalition recently submitted to City Council. On one sheet obtained by Clout, seven lines down, there it is: Someone signed the name Donald Trump. Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
"The soda industry does have a history of fudging these petitions, including taking advantage of businesses where the owners don't speak English, which is very Trumpian," said Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt, referring to reports out of Colorado and San Francisco. "I guess they decided to go all the way this time and just sign his name."
Hitt said Kenney's office also has heard from petition signers who changed their minds about opposing the tax after they learned that the money would fund pre-K; community schools; and rebuilding parks, rec centers, and libraries.
Clout asked Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax spokesman Anthony Campisi about Trump's signature. Scarily, Campisi seemed to have talking points ready for this specific scenario.
"If President Trump is against the tax, then it would probably be one of the few things both he and Sen. Bernie Sanders agree on, which just underscores what a bad idea beverage taxes are," Campisi said. "And they're in good company. Nearly 60 percent of Philadelphia voters oppose this tax, as do 57 percent of Santa Fe voters who decisively rejected a similar tax at the polls earlier this month. We're happy for the bipartisan support."
Did you lie to us, Seth?
The feds on Tuesday filed more criminal charges against District Attorney Seth Williams, accusing him of illegally using his political action committee for expensive outings with his girlfriend at the Union League on South Broad Street.
It was known for years that Williams used his PAC to hang out in the ritzy private club, smoking cigars and rubbing shoulders with the city's bigwigs. But his attendance had fallen off as the scrutiny of the federal investigation grew larger.
BigTrial.net reported March 1 (three weeks before Williams first was indicted) that the district attorney had been turned away from the Union League a week before for unpaid dues. The website, which covers the legal community, said Williams again was turned away later the same evening after he returned with a check drawn from his PAC.
Asked March 2 if the post was accurate, Williams said, "Not at all. It is what it is," as he shook his head and walked away.
But a campaign finance report filed April 4 by Williams' PAC suggests that BigTrial.net might have been on to something after all.
That report lists a Feb. 22 expenditure of $5,538.98 for "membership dues" at the Union League. The same report shows a certified check in that amount returned – uncashed – to the PAC's account March 3.
Anyone else here having flashbacks to Trading Places, the 1983 Dan Aykroyd-Eddie Murphy comedy about a powerful man's fall from grace, with key scenes filmed at the Union League? Cheer up, Seth. Aykroyd's character, Louis Winthorpe III, gets it all back and more at the end of the movie.
Staff writers David Gambacorta, Chris Brennan, and William Bender contributed to this column. Tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.