Having begun as a part-time doorman at Cheeks in 1989, Elmo Montoya worked his way through the ranks to head of security, assistant manager, manager, general manager, half owner and full owner of the 22-year-old Cerrillos Road gentlemen’s club—the only one of its kind in Santa Fe. Cheeks recently hosted a car-show fundraiser for school supplies; from Dec.1-21 it will hold a food drive. Montoya describes himself as an avid outdoor enthusiast.
SFR: How do you characterize Cheeks?
EM: A gentlemen’s club. I don’t really like people to call it a strip club because the women here are entertainers; they’re not strippers. Strippers, I think, ended in the ’70s.
Clubs like these often get a bad rap; does this business have a moral obligation to society?
Of course I have a moral obligation to society—more than anyone else because my family is from here. I was born and raised here. [Gentlemen’s clubs] are stereotyped and the people who stereotype us are the people who never come in here. So they see TV and think that’s what it is. It’s totally different.
What is it?
It’s just a bar like the show Cheers, but it’s Cheeks. We know a lot of our customers, probably 75 percent, by first name. We have tourists from all over the country coming in. It’s just a place to relax without worries of fights. We have the least fights, I believe, out of any bar here in Santa Fe.
What’s the deal with the book drive?
These days, times are tough and there’s a lot of unfortunate kids that probably need the extra money or supplies for school. One of my doormen, Diego Baca, is the one who came up with the idea, so I said, ‘Yeah, let’s have one.’ He arranged for the cars to come and that’s why we had the car show. We didn’t ask for a fee; we just asked for school supplies. We sold cokes and hotdogs and Frito pies.
Have you done anything like this before?
No, not a book drive, but we’re planning on doing more things for the community. We’ve had fundraisers for Esperanza [Shelter for Battered Families]; we’ve had food drives for Christmas time and the holiday season. Instead of a cover charge, we asked people to bring in canned food.
How would you describe the people who work here?
The staff consists of families. My general manager has been with me for 13 years. He has a family. Our doorman Diego has a family. There’s lots of family people here. There’s also lots of single people here that are trying to get themselves through college. Or they’re single mothers or single fathers, for that matter. We’ve had several of the entertainers put themselves through college.
Do you have specific credentials for hiring a dancer?
Usually women know how to dance and I haven’t seen one that can’t dance. It’s mainly their personality more than anything. It doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful or whatever; people just want somebody to talk to or to see a beautiful girl or whatever.
What’s the clientele like?
We have a variety—mainly blue-collar, I guess.
What’s the bread and butter for a gentlemen’s club?
What’s the best part of your job?
Meeting different people on a daily basis.