Portland’s Original Swingers Club gets a New Look!
by Michael Love
Across our country, as more and more people discover Non-monogamy, and more and more people “come out” as being ethically non-monogamous, our community is growing at ever increasing rates. This is ever apparent in our local community as well. It’s easy to look around the greater Portland community and see many different groups that have popped up and several local clubs that give our community a place to meet up, and play. Newcomers to our community might not be aware of the “original” Portland swingers club.
Way back in the early 90’s, a small club called Ace of Hearts was opened up in south central Portland. Owned by Bob Shire, he set out to create a space where local swingers could meet in private, and engage in fun and sexy activities. Over the years their numbers would grow, and the club slowly grew with it. It’s hard to believe of a time when this was literally the only club we had to gather and play in.
Eventually the club would reach a point where it was crowded and busy. The environment was sexy and festive, yet at the same time very homey. Its success was to some extent the beginning of its downfall. “The owners got complacent,” says David, co-owner of the Velvet Rope, and former member of the Ace of Hearts. “The club was successful, they simply stopped putting any effort into it, and just let it thrive on its existing membership.”
They were able to go on like that for a long time, but then a falling out between key personnel in the club led to one of them leaving and opening a new club… and taking a lot of people with him. It was a difference in vision, both in philosophies as well as what they felt was in the best interest of the club. This would create a divide in our community that echoes to this day.
The old club would be re-branded under the name of Angels, and the owners would continue to operate for a few more years, but as the membership dwindled, and as the owners aged, and operating costs as well as ongoing legal costs mounted, the old club eventually was sold to new owners Matt and Alexis Bolids.
Matt and Alexis cut their teeth operating the club as Angels for nearly a year, but had a new vision for the club that they had renamed The Velvet Rope in late 2013. They were looking to re-create the club to appeal to the ever growing ethical non-monogamy community. They started looking for ways to re-invent the club, and boost the membership by attracting people to their club. They would find it to be an uphill battle as the rivalry and division of people would be difficult to get past.
Running a swingers club/sex club is expensive, and a lot of work. Little things add up, things like insurance, because of the adult nature of the business, is nearly prohibitively expensive. Things like maintaining linens and towels, hot tub maintenance, and marketing all adds up. It made growth difficult, and painfully slow.
Then in 2017, Matt fell ill with an infection that nearly took his life. It would start a recovery process that landed him in the ICU for months. He was incapacitated to a level where he could no longer be of help at the club.
“Matt is doing much better although he still has a few more surgeries to endure. It’s an illness that has taken a lot out of him, and the recovery process has changed him. He emerged from the experience a changed man; he is still fighting the complications of his illness, and he counts every day he gets with his family as a blessing and is enjoying spending quality time with his daughter with his new lease on life.” Says Alexis, “we’re uncertain if he will ever return in any managing capacity to the club. That’s something that is so far out of the foreseeable future, it’s not even something we think about. Matt has other ideas with what he wants to do with his time, and for now we’re going with that, and not letting him feel the stress of the day to day operations of the club.”
Matt and Alexis brought on long-time friend David, to help with some of the heavy lifting, and the renovation work. “With Matt getting sick, and Alexis not being able to focus on the club on her own like they were trying to do together, the operations at the club had a pretty strong dive and financially speaking the club came dangerously close to being forced to close.” Says David, “one of the main reasons I came in is because Matt and Alexis are very dear to me. We’ve known each other a very long time, and the one thing I couldn’t go through was knowing that there was something that I could do to help, and just watching it all evaporate on them through no fault of their own, was just something I could not do, and with Alexis trying to run the club on her own in between ICU visits, it was pretty damned close to impossible for the club to function, and really tough on her running it from 9pm until 4am every weekend while her mind being elsewhere. There was a clear need for help, and with them being such good friends, there was no way I could sit back and watch this all happen.”
His presence started real progress toward the changes the club badly needed. His vision and efforts and his financial investment brought a lot of the dreams to life. “It’s handy having a Metro-sexual around.” Says Alexis, “he has such great ideas, and the drive to make them happen.” Indeed it shows to anyone who hasn’t visited the Velvet Rope in a couple of years.
“My whole idea going into this thing, was that the club was so deep into the red, we needed to take this thing and turn it upside down, and take a fresh look at every inch of the operation.” Says David, “the things that Matt handled were significant to the operation of the club, and it takes more than one person to do it.
“We needed to re-invigorate the club, to stimulate membership growth, and attendance numbers. We evaluated every aspect of the club to see how we could improve our operation.”
They would start with the easy stuff. David had ideas on how they could improve their upstairs bar with minimal investment and repurposing some materials that they already had on hand. The difference is amazing. What was once an unassuming corner of the room suddenly was transformed into a beautifully lit bar with a theme of decor that spoke of the intention. You’d almost not believe that it was all done with repurposed materials.
“I was amazed at what David was able to do with just a few repurposed items. Suddenly David had lots of ideas, he was like… ‘we can do this, and we can do this, and we can do this…’ and I was like… ‘oh yeah [nods head enthusiastically] we should do all of those things!’” Alexis says as she laughs. “He just kept saying… ‘you just gotta trust it’ and he was absolutely right. I learned when he gets his ideas, I just need to take my hands off and say ‘Ok, I’m going to trust you on this’ and he has wowed me every single time!”
So they reworked the bar upstairs, and put in a new bar downstairs so they could better serve guests on busy nights. They put together a space where DJ Myke Jones can spin tunes while everyone dances on a dance floor that has been redone and space opened up for an even more exciting experience. They even have a stage area with a strip pole for guests who want to put on a “performance.”
Then in the corner, they have put together a beautiful little “cuddle corner.” It’s a great spot that is inviting, and near the dance floor action. “This is one of those places where it was really nice to have a metro-sexual bringing ideas to the table… David loves those white couches!” says Alexis. “He kept telling me, I found these white couches, you won’t believe them!”
“They are perfect for that corner” says David, “I’m still working on them, they need a little support but they work over there perfectly.” Indeed that corner is just one shining example of how a sense of style, and a little bit of ingenuity can bring a sense of completeness to a space.
“We also worked on the front desk space. The front desk area was old, and didn’t function well. The lighting was not welcoming.” Says Alexis, “as most people know, when you’re remodeling a space like this, you need to pay particular attention to lighting, and color.” Guests are now treated to a more welcoming space that is well lit, and open and airy. There are two stations for guest to register and pay to help speed the process.”
From there they went on to the couples area; the changes they’ve made in there opened up more play space that offers some privacy, while also being easily modified for more connected play. “It also allowed us to take the round bed, and move it upstairs. It’s a way better fit up there, and it allowed us to use the big bed from that room in the room we call the ‘69 room.’ It’s things like this that don’t cost us any real money, but make things flow better and make more sense.”
“Next up we’re going to be reworking the downstairs cafe area.” Says Alexis, “we’re going to make it a more comfortable and quiet area to relax, eat and socialize.”
“It’s just one of the aspects we were looking at changing” says David, “we looked at our business from three different aspects, all of which were intended to improve our guests experience. Improving the space does no good if we don’t have capable staff to handle our guests’ needs, but we also need to make sure we show our guests that we value their experience.
“We focused on the major things as well as the little things. From the moment they walk into the door until they are ready to settle into whatever play they are looking for. I want to make sure that we’re giving our guests that nightclub experience, but with over 10,000 square feet of space we also have the ability to give our guests the quiet social areas and areas that are more private as well. I think that with these lovely old bones there are some innovative ways that we can make it more ‘Portlandesque.’ I think that is what Portlanders have come to love… we have that Hawthorne District kind of feel. It’s like a California blend of pulling in all of those small extra elements that says ‘this is a real thing that someone put together with some intention.’ This isn’t a millionaire who came in and put up some walls to make money… some thought and flavor was put into it.”
“We also have made changes to improve our services as well. If we’re advertising that we have hot tubs, we need to make certain that our hot tubs are operational every time we open our doors. We need to provide the services our guests have come to expect.”
Even with all of the changes they’ve made… they still have lots of work to do, “we’re only at about 35% completion of all of the projects we have in mind. We have a lot more work to do.”
One of the many ways they are re-inventing the Velvet Rope experience is working on re-branding their business, and to create new and exciting experiences for their guests. They strive to be a sex positive venue with events to serve everyone’s needs so in any given month you will find events that cater to the Kink/BDSM crowd, to events that cater to the Poly/Ethical Non-monogamy crowd, as well as events that celebrate the LGBTQ+ communities. They are constantly looking for new events to add to help expand their guests experiences and to make the club more inviting to everyone in our community.
“We’re getting ready for the Velvet Strip” says Alexis, “it has become one of my most favorite events.” Velvet Strip, hosted by well known Portland personality Nikki Lev the Glitter Beast. They invite local “performers” to come and put on strip shows for the guests to watch and enjoy.Perhaps the best part is the social time after the performances where guests get to meet and mingle with the performers that come from all walks of the community.
They’ve recently also added a new FemDom event. Fempire, hosted by Mistress Viola celebrates the Female Domme and those who worship them. It has become a popular event that is well attended. It carries a special dress code requirement that is a bit more strict than the usual dress code.
These are just but a few samples of the new offerings the Velvet Rope has to offer. The owners of the Velvet Rope are cordially inviting you to join them to help celebrate their 5th anniversary, on Saturday, November 24th from 9pm until 4am for a Naked Masquerade Ball. Guests are invited to come as bare as they dare! Guests are encouraged to wear nothing but their masks. You MUST be a member of the Velvet Rope to attend this event so be sure to stop by for a visit before and get your membership squared away, and enjoy a nice meal from their tasty buffet, lots of private and public spaces to explore, two fully stocked bars, a couple of hot tubs for you to join some naked friends, as well as a dance floor with a live DJ. If you’ve never been it is an experience you will not forget… if you’ve attended the Velvet Rope before, but haven’t visited in awhile, I would encourage you to check out the changes they have made. I think you’ll find it to be a pleasant place to play, and hang out… and who knows, maybe you’ll make a new friend or two!
The images here provided by Lovelines Photo are just a few of the amazing photos of the new space. We strive to keep the Newsblog free from nudity so its Family/Work Safe… you really should check out the full article with ALL of the images from the Feature by visiting this link.