On Fridays, a go-go dancer stands outside the Mint Cocktails, a neighborhood bar on Grant Road near Richey Boulevard, to welcome working guys in for an after-work respite.
It's part of a business model—including burlesque shows and soon Wild Boys male revue shows—to help Ricardo "Skyy" Garcia and his business partner, Chris Smith, make the Mint successful.
Just last week, Garcia and Smith celebrated their one-year anniversary of owning the bar. But it took eight months to get their liquor license squared away after a lengthy and contentious fight with neighbors as well as Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik.
Back in April 2012, as the bar was changing hands and Garcia's plans for the establishment were being revealed, members of the Palo Verde Neighborhood Association tried to fight back with Kozachik at their side.
T-town has its share of strip clubs, but there's a difference separating the ladies from the guys. City code dictates that if a male stripper is wearing a g-string, it isn't considered stripping. The other shows Garcia produces don't show genitalia, and there aren't any lap dances, so the new Mint isn't a strip club. Still, neighbors weren't impressed.
Garcia says the initial battle was difficult: "In the beginning we met with Steve's office and the neighborhood association to be transparent, but they had already made a decision to basically shut us down."
To show that even male revues can bring some good, Garcia says they figured out a way to give back to the neighborhood by honoring teachers and students at Catalina Magnet High School. "We started that three months ago," he says.
"We're going to give one (award) every year to a teacher, and then an athlete of the year for girl and boy. Steve (Kozachik) and his office have said they want to be involved as well."
Garcia describes the Mint's shows as "tastefully and professionally done. Men and women of all shapes and sizes."
But despite Garcia's positive outlook, the president of the Palo Verde Neighborhood Association says there's have been issues and she is still waiting for them to become good neighbors.
Ronni Kotwicka says the concerns revolve around parking and signage issues rather than any perceived bad elements that could be attracted by the entertainment, but she does feel that the Mint's new owners haven't been good at getting involved with the neighborhood association or becoming part of the neighborhood. Kotwicka points to the Loft Cinema as a good example for the Mint to follow. The Loft provides the association with a table at its new farmers market. "They are always helpful when we do one of our fundraisers."
But what about the Koz? Where does he stand now on the Mint?
"I think they've been working hard to mend fences and certainly got off to a rocky start," he told the Tucson Weekly.
The awards for teachers and athletes at Catalina are a help, he said. "I applaud them for doing it."
But there's a still a problem from Kozachik's perspective, and that's a gender imbalance when it comes to city code on what defines stripping, all because of a g-string.
"The board of adjustments absolutely screwed up. Women can, guys can't?"
Did our reviewer find the Mint's burlesque "tastefully and professionally done?"
Mint Cocktails has been in town for decades. But this past year, The Mint got a makeover. New owners Ricardo "Skyy" Garcia and Chris Smith got rid of the shitty mint green paint, dimmed the lights, built in a small stage, and added some sexy, fun entertainment.
It's a Saturday night at The Mint. Garcia stands on his DJ booth, arousing everyone with his old-school tunes. "We Are Family" infiltrates the room like a fume that turns people into singing, dancing zombies. Even the bikers in the audience are throwing their hands up in the air, getting up from their chairs, and busting moves.
Don't Blink Burlesque is about to get onstage. I think to myself: "Why this 1970s, 80s playlist on a burlesque night?" Then I do a 360 around the place, and realize the crowd it attracts is as whimsical as the music and the shows it presents. And, even if you don't get the dive bar's new vibe, Garcia shoves it down your throat, in a good way.
His enthusiasm is contagious. Now I'm ready to be seduced by the Don't Blink dancers. "Don't blink," says Garcia. "You won't want to miss anything."
Miss Ida Tapper was the first to catch my attention. She gets onstage wearing a nerdy-nurse-looking outfit. At first I thought she wasn't going to show off her glittery pasties and beautiful physique. Then, Huey Lewis and the News' "The Power of Love" begins to play, and she slowly starts to undress, then shakes her natural boobies. Tapper ended her performance bending over with her ass toward the audience. It was a nice view for those sitting in front of the stage.
When Matt Finish, the only male in the group, came out in what appeared to be a dog costume, I didn't know what to expect. Isn't burlesque supposed to make me want to have sex? Dogs don't make me want to have sex. But a few seconds into his Wizard of Oz-inspired skit, I'm into it (in a non-sexual way). By the time he reveals the bow covering his penis, he had enchanted everyone, even the bikers.
Then there's Crystal Kiss. She's the biggest out of all of the dancers, but her confidence is as big as her curves. She reaffirms that, in burlesque, is not about what size you are, is about how you present yourself. Miss Kiss got the loudest applause.
Don't Blink gives burlesque a twist. The performances were a balanced mix between sexy and comical. And, it's this fusion that makes Don't Blink differ from other local burlesque groups. You may not leave with a big boner, but you'll definitely leave entertained and invited to come back another Saturday.
The Mint is the perfect home for this burlesque troupe. They're equally as outrageous and energetic.
— Inés Taracena