We’ve all, likely, heard of Passions: the notorious, predominantly black strip club in New Orleans East where “anything goes” … supposedly. I’ve mentioned the club various times in this blog, but I had always been too timid to visit. Why? I have no idea.
I headed out to New Orleans East on a Saturday night. There’s a free parking lot across the street from Passions. Not well lit, but it’s located near a very busy intersection so there’s probably nothing to worry about. Not saying break-ins never happen, but it doesn’t seem like something that happens often or even semi-often. You always have the option to take a cab.
I got there after midnight and the club was packed. Admission to the club was $10. Cover charges, from what I’ve heard, vary throughout the week. Fridays and Saturdays usually run $10, with slower days being $5. I headed upstairs to a single large room with two stages, a bar in the back, and private rooms outlining the walls of the club. To say that the club is a bit “rustic” is an understatement, but more on that later.
There were a ton of people in that space. Lots of dancers (well over 20, and I’m sure many more), lots of customers. Now, a few things you should know about this club…
First, it’s a majority black club. All of the dancers and staff members, that I saw, were black, and about 99% of the customer base is black. I did see one other white guy there, though. We all have our comfort levels, and if that bothers you, then you should look elsewhere. But other than that, there’s really nothing to worry about. It’s not like you’re going to be mistreated because you’re a white guy in a black strip club. I can say for certain that I was treated very well by everyone – staff and dancers. There are clubs that are majority white, and there are clubs that are majority black. New Orleans is a racially diverse city, so you should expect racially diverse clubs as well.
Second, the neighborhood makes some people uncomfortable. Full disclosure: I’ve never had a problem going to Passions or Visions (they’re basically across the street from each other). I wouldn’t recommend aimlessly wandering around Downman Road, but as long as you’re smart and stay in well-lit areas – you’re fine. Passions doesn’t benefit from a secure, monitored parking lot like Visions does, but I wouldn’t say the parking situation should make you nervous. I’m sure some people heard the story about a shooting at Passions … yes, it did happen. It happened following Katrina. Some customer got made at one of the dancers and the doorman intervened. The irate customer went to his truck, grabbed his gun and shot the doorman. Shootings can happen anywhere and, tragically, do happen all over NOLA. There has been an onslaught of violent crime on and near Bourbon Street in recent years. It’s just a risk you take going out late.
Third, it is not bottomless. I heard rumors that it was, but the rumors were nothing more than just rumors. Since they serve alcohol, dancers are required to wear T-backs like everywhere else.
3921 Downman Road
New Orleans, LA 70126
$10 (sometimes $5 on less crowded weekdays)
Soda/Water – $2
Beer – $4-$5
Well – $6+
$20 per song
Remember when I called this place “rustic”? That was being generous. It’s shitty – like someone went to Home Depot 10 years ago and built this place by themselves. It’s got an ‘arts & crafts’ feel to it. OK, that’s me being generous again. It looks like something straight out of a home economics class … for kindergarteners.
The club is comprised of one giant, rectangular space. When you walk in the door, there are two stages to your left and a small bar to your right. The stages are long and skinny; very rectangular. They’re low to the ground as well, not elevated like most strip club stages. A number of bar stools line the length of the stage; bolted to the ground and unable to be moved or adjusted (à la Visions Men’s Club). The stage, and seating, is pretty worn and run down. The padding on most of the seats is ripped. The stages are dirty. But it’s a dive club … you take it for what it is.
The bar is small. There is no bar seating, but the design allows the bartenders to get your drinks quickly. Nothing special … it is what it is.
On busy nights, you’ll notice a lot of people hanging out near the bar. It’s close enough to see the stage, but not where you’re obligated to tip. There is no seating away from the stage. Anyone not in a private room or at the stage is forced to stand (also à la Visions Men’s Club). There are no pool tables or anything like that.
The private rooms – aka the lap dance rooms – are located along the walls of the club. They’re private, complete with four walls and a stall door that closes (just like you’d find in a bathroom!) There are lots of stalls so finding one that’s available is rarely an issue, even when it’s crowded. Inside each stall is a bench-like seat and a small table in the center. Nothing fancy, but comfortable. Maybe a little small – but big enough. Once that door closes, you won’t be bothered. There are no bouncers patrolling the area.
The lighting in the club is better than I expected. You can see well near the stage areas and bar, and pretty well in the lap dance rooms. I did notice that some stalls had better lighting than others. Some of the overhead lights have filters on them. The stalls against the back wall have red lights which make it a little harder to see. The stalls to the right of the club, I thought, had better lighting.
Passions is different from your traditional strip club, or anything you’ll find on Bourbon Street. In a regular strip club, the dancers go through stage rotations. Each dancer is introduced by the DJ and goes through a two or three-song set. At Passions, that doesn’t happen. There is no main stage. The DJ doesn’t announce the dancers. The dancers don’t go through (mandatory) stage rotations. The dancers aren’t required to go on stage at all.
Keep in mind I’ve only been once, but this is what I observed. Most of the dancers sit around or near the stage. If a customer approaches or sits at the stage, one of the dancers nearby will begin dancing. I suppose there are pros and cons about this setup. Pro: you get one-on-one interaction with the dancer, and the stage dance is as good, or better, than any stage dance anywhere else. Con: the dance only lasts as long as the dollar bills flow, whereas the dancers at other clubs will finish out the song (because the club makes them).
Every review you’ll read about Passions talks about how the dancers “hustle” the customers. True, there are certainly strip clubs where the dancers push lap dances and VIPs harder than others. I didn’t find the dancers to be too pushy or unbearable. A few girls will try to whisk you away into one of the private stalls and sell you on dances right away. That happened to me when I walked in, which happens often. Learn to say no, or just ignore them and move toward the bar.
As far as mileage goes, Passions may be the king of strip club mileage in New Orleans. When that stall door shuts – it’s just you and the stripper. Most girls will get completely nude during lap dances, and two-way contact is standard. This is true of all strip clubs: the hotter dancers realize they can get away with less contact or without getting fully nude and still sell dances. The same applies to Passions. Although there are no completely private champagne rooms, I can say with certainty that extras are available at Passions. With no fear of intrusion by the bouncers, the dancers can do what they want.
But how hot are the girls? You’d be surprised. There are a few girls here that could dance anywhere and make money. I’ve only been on Friday and Saturday, but the dancers looked good overall. I’ve seen MUCH worse at Stiletto’s and Lipstixx. Of course there are some girls that aren’t the most desirable, but that’s the case almost anywhere. Rough estimation: I’d say about half of the girls would appeal to most strip club customers. If you go in expecting Penthouse, then you’ll be disappointed. But again, I’d say the same thing about Visions, Centerfolds, Lipstixx, Stiletto’s, Club Eden, Deja Vu, Barely Legal, Temptations, Scores and more. Temper your expectations. If you’re a fan of natural boobs, you’ll be pleased to know that few of the dancers have fake tits. And if you like big asses, you’ll be even more pleased. I’m not sure how many customers are particular about light-skin girls verse girls with darker skin. If I had to guess, I’d say 60% or more of the dancers had medium-to-dark skin. I’ve heard the upscale Bourbon Street clubs like Penthouse and Rick’s Cabaret prefer lighter-skin girls, but I’m not sure how many customers really care.
This all assumes you like black dancers – because 100% of the dancers at Passions are black. A lack of dancer diversity hurts any club, because you can’t simply pick the best girls that audition, you have to pick the best black/white/whatever girls that audition. I’m not picky about dancer ethnicity. If she’s hot, I’m interested.
Is Passions worth a visit? If you like curvy, black strippers and don’t mind tattoos or driving out to New Orleans East – I’d say it’s worth a shot. It’s right off the Downman Road exit from I-610, so it’s not hard to get to. I can guarantee you’ll spend less here than on Bourbon. Drinks are cheaper and the dances are only $20/song. It’s usually double on Bourbon. A few more notes on Passions:
- The music here is LOUD. I’m not bothered by loud music, but it’s a pain when you’re trying to talk to someone and they can barely hear you. I get that they’re trying to bump the energy level of the club, but it can be annoying.
- This club is also SMOKEY (or smoky … however you spell it). I’ve been to some smokey bars, but this place is about as bad as it gets. You will leave smelling like an ashtray, guaranteed. I could almost taste it when I left.
- If you don’t like rap music, you might look elsewhere. I’ve found most strip clubs play pop/r&b music or techno/dubstep versions of popular radio songs. Some stick with country and alternative rock. Passions plays rap. That’s it. When I go to strip clubs, I’m not there to listen to music, but I realize others have preferences.
- Chances are you will be “hustled” when you walk in the door. Just a tip… don’t go into a private dance room with one of the dancers; they’re just going to request a tip for doing nothing.