Mention The Lodge in virtually any corner of the country and folks will know what you're talking about. That classy gentleman's joint in Dallas, right? It's practically a landmark, or at the bare minimum, a tourist attraction.

So when The Lodge celebrates its 20th anniversary later this month, the club is letting it all hang out with a two-day party featuring free food and celebrity appearances.

20th Anniversary Gala featuring Kinky Friedman

On Tuesday, April 19, The Lodge is offering discounted drinks from 6-9 p.m. alongside a free buffet, and if there's one thing Yelp reviewers are raving about it's the food. Seriously. The Lodge is known for its steakhouse-style menu, and spokesman Mike Precker promises Tuesday's selection will be its "best buffet ever" with items such as prime rib. 

Then on Wednesday, April 20, Texan rabble-rouser Kinky Friedman will be in the house shaking hands, smoking cigars and promoting his new album, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met. (Is that date a coincidence? We think not.)

"I figure one Texas legend deserves another," Friedman said by email. "I plan on keeping my clothes on, but who knows?"

Of course, both nights patrons can also expect the usual programming, as in long legs and exposed assets. Before toasting to another decade, let's take a look back at the last few times The Lodge made local and national headlines.

Erotic yet elegant

After opening in 1996, it didn't take long for The Lodge to get noticed. The club was nominated more than 10 times for the ED Awards, put on by trade pub Exotic Dancer Publications, winning "Club of the Year: Southwest" in 1998 and 1999, and overall "Club of the Year" in 2008. As recently as 2015, Thrillist named it the No. 1 strip club in Dallas, citing the manly sophistication of spaces like the Library Room and VIP upstairs. 

"Needless to say, this place is more Frank Sinatra than Lil’ Wayne. Order a cigar and a scotch and enjoy the view," the pub said.

The money-makers

The Lodge is often described as posh or upscale in part because of the atmosphere, yes, but also because of the women. How can you offer the best if you don't cultivate the best? That's founder and CEO Dawn Rizos' thinking anyway. According to a 2011 New York Times report, The Lodge houses an onsite spa and salon for employees, wardrobe service, a full-time house mother and points system for bonuses. Dancers can even get tax and investment advice or college tuition money. Many make $100,000, according to the story, and the top dancers even more.

"This is a club that's structured for the girls to make money," one dancer, who traveled to Dallas solely to work at the Lodge, told the NYT. "Most clubs want their cut of pretty much anything that runs through your hands, and this club isn’t like that."

Newt Gingrich approves this message

This proved to be a winning recipe for Rizos, who in 2009 was slated to receive the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But after finding out he was about to sing praises of a topless bar, Gingrich rescinded the invite.

The Lodge "looked like a it was a very successful restaurant," Gingrich told The Dallas Morning News that year. "Part two of that description apparently didn’t come to the attention of our folks, and of course the minute it did, we decided that probably we didn’t think that was an appropriate award."

Sticky situation

What's a strip club without some drama? The Lodge may not have experienced its share, per se, but Rizos and ex-husband Nick grabbed headlines in late 1999 when a fire ravaged Caligula XXI, a strip club they opened in 1983 near Bachman Lake. About six weeks later, allegations were made public that Nick paid a former city councilman $7,700 in "bribes and gratitudes" to curtail police enforcement in the area, according to The Dallas Morning News. The Dallas Observer alleged bribes were tied to cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking by Caligula waitresses, citing an interview with Dawn in which she mentioned "a bunch of TABC violations."

Talk about a sticky situation.

The Lodge celebrates its 20th anniversary party on April 19 and 20. Cover charge is $5 until 7 p.m. and $10 thereafter. Reservations are not required.

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