Note: The Key Club Cabaret was previously the Crazy Horse, but had to change their name due to a trademark dispute with the Vegas Crazy Horse. Previously, this was Stage Door Johnny's/Back Stage Johnny's.
Quality of Dances (14.5/20) – There's a huge variation from one girl to the next, with some girls being fairly tame and some girls making a solid attempt to get the job done. Still, even most of the more tame girls have a few moves to make a dance worthwhile. Also, the dances here are usually nude if you stick around for multiple songs, though that's not a huge plus in my book due to the risk of having to get my dress pants dry-cleaned. A few girls have indicated that extras are available in the VIP area, but I haven't had $100+ to see if they're true to their word.
Quality of Dancers (5/10) – If you haven't been here since it was Johnny's, you should be pleased, because the quality has gone up significantly under new ownership. It's still rare to see any girls that I'd rate above an 8 and there are a few who are way past their sell-by date, but the majority of girls are now in the 5-7 range. Normally that would be worth around a 6, but I had to knock them down a point for having two "girls" that I'm fairly certain are post-op trannies. Maybe they're just strong-jawed ladies, but in either case, why would a club hire dancers who even beg that question?
Number of Dancers (6/10) – In the early evenings, there aren't usually a whole lot of dancers or customers. The lack of customers means that you'll have your pick of the litter, but the lack of dancers means that you still might not have much quality to chose from. Later in the evening, the number of dancers goes up much quicker than the number of customers, so there might be 2 dancers for every customer if you get here at the right time, and even if you don't, you shouldn't have a hard time getting a girl's attention for a dance. The only time that I've had a real problem was on a Sunday afternoon when there were no dancers, but the manager bought a few rounds of drinks for everyone who was there and the bartendress stepped up to offer lap dances. It still wasn't ideal, but I admire a club that at least makes the effort to make up for its shortcomings.
Variety/Diversity of Dancers (2.5/5) – The Key Club has a mix of black and white dancers and they've got more than enough size variation, but the lack of Latinas is a real shame. For whatever reason, the black girls here were usually somewhat hotter than the white ones when this was Johnny's, but that trend seems to be slowly reversing recently.
Attitude of Dancers (6.5/10) – On multiple occasions, girls have been happy to show me around the club including the VIP dance area even without me asking, and most of them are friendly whether they're on stage or just sitting around bullshitting with customers. This seems like the type of place where's you'd run into some strung out girls, but that hasn't been my experience at all. I did once have to help a girl stay on her chair because she was falling down drunk, but otherwise, these girls seem to be fairly well put together.
Value (3/10) – There's a $10 cover after 6pm that gets you into both clubs and the $5 beers, $25 dances and moderate stage value are all ok, but there are much better values to be found elsewhere in Connecticut. I love lap dances, and these ones are pretty solid, but I have a hard time ever justifying more than one or two when they cost more than $20 each. Thankfully, some of the girls drop the price to $20 per dance after the first one since the club isn't taking a cut of that extra cash, so you should always ask about that before you agree to a dance if you're considering staying for multiple songs.
Dance Setup (3/10) – The dance booths from Johnny's are gone, so even though the dance area is classier now, it's not nearly as private. Still, it isn't terrible since there are two separate bench areas on the nude side of the club, and you can't see those areas unless you're in them. The ladies make sure to take you to the second bench area if there's already a guy in the first one, so you get an area to yourself as long as only one or two customers are getting dances at a time. Any more than that though, and it gets cramped and loses all privacy really quickly. If you're willing to drop the cash for the VIP dances, you'll go around the corner to a row of decent sized individual rooms with a large comfy couch in each. They don't have doors on the booths, but no one will see you unless they're going for a private dance, so it's still pretty solid if you're looking to get a little intimate.
Club Setup (4/10) – The new owners have put a lot of money into this place and it's certainly a huge improvement over the way it was before, but something is still missing. The topless side has a long bar that fills up quickly, a long bench style couch along the far side wall, and a large stage. The stage is reasonably nice overall, but it has one annoying flaw - it doesn't have a lower shelf or ledge where you can sit your drink, so you're choices are to awkwardly hold your beverage or to sit it right on the stage. Not a huge problem, but who knew they even make stages without a place to sit drinks? The nude side doesn't really seem to be a popular place to hang out, but it also has a decent stage with some chairs around it. I think the topless side needs some tables and booths to make it better for groups, because I really can't see coming here with more than one or two other guys.
Club Atmosphere (3/10) – The setup has become more upscale, but the old dive bar atmosphere still shows through. I imagine that it will eventually be fairly nice, but for now, it's kind of in that awkward zone where it's too classy to be a dive but too shitty to be classy. I could also see it getting rougher later at night, but the crowd has always been alright while I've been there.
Club Accessibility (3.5/5) – The Key Club is very close to I-91, isn't too far from I-95, and is within walking distance of some of the best pizza in the U.S. over on Wooster Street. If you're from the area, I'm sure that you already have your preference and I know better than to try to change your mind, but if you're just passing through, I'd have to recommend Frank Pepe's if you're interested in toppings and Sally's if you're going for plain cheese. You can't go wrong either way though.
Overall – The Key Club is already the best club, by far, in New Haven. It may not be great, but the dances are very good and everything else is solid if you can overlook the varied quality of dancers. I'm guessing that the dancer quality will go up over time, but for now, that prevents me from adding it to my Connecticut rotation. Overall, it's about on par with Keepers in Milford, and even though I'd still probably chose Centerfolds in Berlin over the Key Club, the Key Club has become a very reasonable option if you're in New Haven and time is limited.
TOTAL SCORE = 51