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Gustav closes all but one strip club- the Hustler Club- on Bourbon Street

New Orleans- Dawn Beasely showed up for work Sunday night as planned. But with Hurricane Gustav fast approaching New Orleans, the Bourbon Street dancer had no desire to wear her usual skimpy uniform and uncomfortable heels.

She wore instead an oversized gray T-shirt, shorts and running sneakers. Her blond hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, Beasely greeted the few patrons of Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club with a smile and promises of $3 drinks throughout the storm.

“If they really want to see naked girls, I’ll go get my stuff,” she said.

By 10 p.m., though, no one had asked Beasely to strip. So she sat on a bar stool, sipping a bottle of water and shooting the breeze with bartender Frank Ruiz and general manager Jon Olmstead. Behind them, a flatscreen television flashed images of Gustav’s approach toward the Louisiana coastline.

Saturday was busier, Beasely said. The club drew about 150 customers: Not bad for the night before Mayor Ray Nagin declared a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans.

“Last chance to have fun,” Ruiz said, offering his explanation of why so many showed up to party last night.

On Sunday evening, the Hustler Club appeared to be the only strip club open on Bourbon Street. Up and down the sidewalks, neon signs illuminating posters of impossibly shaped women continued to glow. But gone were the rowdy tourists bedecked in Mardi Gras beads, Lucky Dog vendors and other signs of normalcy on the Big Easy’s most famous street.

A few restaurants stayed open, crowded with police officers and media that had flocked to New Orleans to see if Gustav could top the devastating Hurricane Katrina of 2005. Most other storefronts were boarded up or had sandbags piled near the doors.

The bad weather did not scare the Hustler Club, whose managers pride themselves as being among the first French Quarter businesses to reopen after Katrina.

“We’re open until the wind gets too bad. That’s what our plan is,” Ruiz said.

A few patrons had straggled into the Hustler Club before 10 p.m. One man, who said he was “just looking for fun,” was escorted out after the bartender realized he did not have enough money to pay for a drink.

Multicolored lights shined on the stage in the middle of the bar, although there were no dancers left to shimmy around the pole. Customers did not seem to care, however, and made do with their drinks and small talk with Beasely and her coworkers at the bar.

Beasely explained that her fellow dancers had fled town in fear of Gustav. But Beasely, who moved to New Orleans from Baltimore just months before Katrina, did not want to leave the city.

“It’s kind of exciting,” she said. “I don’t really want to see the aftermath. But the part leading up to it is kind of thrilling.”


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