With the clubs running smoothly, he implemented some innovations of his own. He locally pioneered "nude rooms"-sections of the clubs where alcohol is forbidden and the women are 100 percent naked. The notion was met with resistance-and lawsuits-from city council members, but it proved a moneymaking draw and a lap-dance destination. Lowrie also started buying more clubs. It got him thinking: "There were all these guys with little clubs around the country ready to retire. I could be their exit strategy."
Slowly and quietly, Lowrie set about building his father's business into a dynasty, playing by new rules-some of which were his, some of which were imposed. Unlike in Hal's day, 21st-century cities have become very good at zoning out strip clubs. "You can't just go throw up a club wherever you want to anymore," says Dave Manack, associate publisher of Exotic Dancer Publications. "The trend is buying existing clubs or getting them to license your name." To manage city relations, Lowrie even hired a government-affairs liaison who flies in on a private jet to help placate city councils. Last year, to generate capital for his strip-club shopping, Lowrie took his father's company public. He used the capital to buy the Diamond Cabaret and build his pride and joy, the Phoenix Penthouse Club. In a shrewd move, Lowrie divides ownership and management of the clubs in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Arizona, and Colorado between the publicly traded VCG and his privately held Lowrie Management. This means he need not disclose his entire fortune to the public. Ultimately, he says, he hopes to bring Lowrie Management under the VCG umbrella. People ask him what the VCG stands for, but it was just a holding company he acquired to take the company public. Lowrie likes to joke that it means "very cute girls."
Lowrie's Mile-High City strip-club empire adheres to a clear structure. He gives his clubs report-card rankings, from "A" level gentlemen's clubs such as the Diamond Cabaret and the Penthouse Club, to "B" clubs like PT's Showclub on Evans Avenue and PT's All-Stars, and finally "C" clubs such as PT's All-Nude, which caters to young men between 18 and 21 years old and offers nude dancers and topless waitresses but no booze. Lowrie's newest Denver bar, Tabu, a clothing-required dance lounge above the Diamond, is a gateway club to the racier stuff. Lowrie estimates his "A" clubs earn $4 million to $7 million in annual revenue, with margins at 34 percent-that's between $1.3 million and $2.3 million in profit. His "B" clubs earn revenue between $2 million and $4 million with similar profit margins. Owning all of these tiers of the market, Lowrie runs the region's entire spectrum of skin. And with this system, he has access to the best entertainment and the best management, and he saves money on advertising. Buying in bulk means better deals. Whether it's the limes or ladies, "it's all economies of scale," says Lowrie.