Merchandise, not money: Adult arcade owner fights back against shutdown

Most Jacksonville arcades have been given Monday deadline to remove machines

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Fighting back against a citywide shutdown that's beginning to gain national attention, an adult arcade operator in Jacksonville is trying a different strategy to keep his doors open.

Throughout the week, the city has begun the process of closing adult arcades. Inspectors have visited 175 sites and issued orders to remove simulated gambling devices

Ryan Strickland, the owner of Suited Jax Arcade on Blanding Boulevard -- one of the busiest arcades in Jacksonville -- said he no longer wants to pay out cash. Instead, he wants to give merchandise.

Strickland emailed the City Council asking if the arcades could remain open if they only offer merchandise, similar to an arcade like Dave and Busters or Chuck E. Cheese. He wrote:

"Unfortunately, this comes at a cost to the employees because they will no longer receive tips if people cannot redeem cash, but I am willing to give all 54 employees a raise to offset this fact." His email goes on to read, "I am doing everything I can to do the right thing for my businesses, the city, and most importantly, my employees, but am scared to do anything without your all's approval and blessing."

As of Friday evening, he had not heard back from the city. Other arcades have said they're considering Suited Jax Arcade's strategy to keep their doors open.

On Friday, Dr. Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was in front of City Hall to tell the City Council that his group is watching. Steele was flanked by three arcade workers. He said the City Council should keep the machines legal and that his group could help bring in other jobs.

"We are saying that regulation will control all of this. It has not been regulated," Steele said. "It is a business, and it's legitimate, and it's been done all over the world."

Many of the arcades have been given Monday as their deadline to remove the machines. Employees are planning more demonstrations over the weekend, including a possible march in the San Marco area.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.