Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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    Ah, The Mafia. Known for their subtlety and planning, they can orchestrate murder, drug dealing, prostitution, and the sale of illicit tomato sauce without anyone finding out. But their fronts lack the same subtlety, as can clearly be seen on the massive sign above their hideout that says "Legitimate Casino! Not Mafia-owned!" To be frank, anyone who even calls himself "a legitimate businessman" in a work of fiction (rather than, say, a CEO) is likely a mobster, drug runner, bootlegger, or other type of crook. Expect a great deal of Double-Speak.

    Sometimes non-Mafia criminal organizations also employ this trope.

    Compare Most Definitely Not a Villain. Contrast Spy From Weights and Measures.

    Examples of Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club include:

    Anime and Manga

    Comic Books

    • Sin City mobsters usually tend to hide in plain sight. They pretend to be country clubs, legit casinos, and even the church but they are usually fronts for criminal organizations. Most people know this, though. They just choose to ignore it.
    • Kingpin's organization from Marvel Comics used to pose as a normal spice business before being eventually exposed. In fact, while the first legit company he owned was a small spice importing firm, he would often claim to be a "humble dealer of spices" even years later when his holdings had become a vast conglomerate of various fields.

    Fan Works

    • Impro Fanfic Do Gooders had the "Tokyo Legitimate Businessmen's Club"—probably in tribute to The Simpsons. To their credit, neither the heroes nor the main villain realized their actual purpose until the shoot-out started. Then again, everyone else knows what they really do...


    • In The Godfather films, Vito Corleone poses as an "Olive Oil Importer", and occasional references are made to "the Olive Oil business" when characters do not want to refer to what actually goes on. (Subverted in that he actually does have a legitimate business that imports olive oil; it just isn't where most of his money comes from.)
    • Some Like It Hot: The climax involves the Friends of Italian Opera.


    • Lampshaded in The Serial Murders by Kim Newman: psychic investigator Richard Jeperson is introduced to some very obvious Legitimate Businessmen by the villain, who is auctioning his supernatural powers to be used for assassination. Upon being introduced to them, Jeperson guesses that they're 'olive oil salesmen', in reference to The Godfather example above. They appreciate the joke, but the villain—who is both rather uncultured and a bit of an idiot—is lost.

    Live-Action TV

    • Intelligence: The protagonist has many front companies, including a shipyard and a lumber business, but his favorite is a strip club called the Chick-A-Dee.
    • Although they're a motorcycle gang rather than the Italian mob, SAMCRO in Sons of Anarchy uses this trope in the exact same fashion. Everybody knows what they do for a living, but whenever they're accused of being a biker gang by law enforcement officers, they'll assert that they're just a club of Harley enthusiasts.
    • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Reptile Boy", the Delta Zeta Kappas seem like the typical college fraternity for rich kids, because that's what they are. They just happen to also be a cult that offers Virgin Sacrifices to a snake demon.


    • Subverted in The Hairy Ape: Yank goes to a meeting of the Industrial Workers of the World, expecting it to be a front for an organization that achieves its goals by blowing things up. The people there assume that he is a government spy trying to entrap their genuinely legitimate organization when he approaches them, and kick him out.

    Video Games


    "N-O-M-A-F-I-A! Oh baby..."

    • The Outstanding Citizen Warehouse Corporation from The Sims 3, which is your sims' workplace if you choose the criminal career.
    • In The Godfather: The Game, one suspects that the various families would conceal their businesses better if they didn't post guards around it who smack their fists into the other open palm every time they see you come near. Or outright open fire indiscriminately if your Vendetta with that family is high enough.
    • There was a small rumor about years ago that SNK's first American offices were actually owned by the mafia as a means to launder their money and had minimal organized management, which is why their infamous localizations were the way they were.
    • Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver: The Team Rocket Base has a sign proclaiming its innocence. It also has a discolored tree with highly visible antennae sticking out of the top. And the shopkeeper keeps telling you that the breeze coming from that mysterious gigantic box in the middle of the shop is just your imagination, and is not coming from any hidden hideout anywhere. It doesn't help that he says it every single time you try to buy stuff from him.
      • Parodied when Team Rocket is driven away and the legitimate owner comes back...and the whistling noise doesn't stop, because she's old and her dentures don't fit right.

    "Don't look behind the poster! There's no hidden switch behind it!"

    • In Pizza Tycoon, you can order sabotage devices/weapons from stores which claim to sell "joke articles" and "ice cream", respectively. But if you try to buy weapons openly, they'll tell the police, and prison ensues.
    • In Persona 2, the Zodiac Club is run by the Masquerade, a cult with Zodiac-themed names for its members. In the sequel, the club falls under the ownership of the Taiwanese mob.
    • The NES game Nightshade has the Pyramid Club, reflecting the Big Bad's fixation on ancient Egypt. There's also an all-girl ninja gang that runs the clothing boutique and a restaurant ("Chopsticks and Ninja Stars").
    • Kingdom of Loathing has a Penguin Mafia. They run The Raffle House and Uncle P's Antiques, both which are "legitimate establishments".
    • In City of Heroes, Mafia Expy "The Family" has a pizza chain. Billboards advertise "Made Fresh. By Made Men." Which is most likely a shout-out or homage to Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash for his Cosa Nostra Pizza, Uncle Enzo and the world's most brutal 30-minutes or less delivery guarantee.
    • The Yakuza games have the Nikkyo Consortium, which is really the black ops arm of the Tojo Clan, advancing its interests through methods like assassination that need to be kept discreet even from the already violent rank and file.

    Web Original

    • From SCP Foundation, the Foundation itself is known to use many dummy corporations and storefronts to pursue its actions, including Soap and Care Products, Superior Consumer Produce, Sudden Career Possibilities, Security for Corporate Profiteers, Spicy Crust Pizzeria. Of course, this ruse only works on civilians who are ignorant of the Foundation's existence - to their rivals and enemies like the GOC and Chaos Insurgency, the first letters in the names of these companies are a dead giveaway.

    Web Comics

    Western Animation

    • The Simpsons
      • The Trope Namer is Fat Tony's hideout. They have a softball team and "family" picnics.
      • The Ancient Society of No-Homers, which meets at an old Baskin-Robbins with a marquee reading "Abandoned Store".
      • In "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment", Moe attempted to stay in business by becoming a speakeasy with a pet shop look as a disguise. When Rex Banner bursts in, Moe was able to save himself and his customers since Banner was couldn’t solve wroth anything.
    • Futurama
      • Bender was very disappointed to learn that the League of Robots is very legitimate and hasn't killed a human in centuries. (And that was a pretty sick Girl Scout.)
      • The Robot Mafia, which is based in a meat store called "Fronty's Meat Market: Not a front since 2437". They also run "Small Bill's Laundering".
    • Family Guy: The Mafia do their dealings in the "Pet Store. That's it, pet store." All of the "pets" are cardboard cut-outs, and people regularly order "bunnies" in both 12 gauge and semiautomatic (the cops have it bugged).

    "Whatever sort of 'bunny' you think would be best for shooting a guy in the head."

    • Zig-zagged in one Bugs Bunny cartoon, where Bugs torments a couple of crooks, and finishes up by erecting a huge sign on the side of their hideout. The police find the two crooks in no time.
    • SpongeBob SquarePants: Subverted in the episode "Banned In Bikini Bottom"; when Krabby Patties were temporarily banned, Krabs decides to create a speakeasy-like location at Spongebob’s home to sell them... and they're found out due to the sign they hung up giving them away (and Plankton ratting them out certainly helped).
    • CatDog: In the episode "Just Say CatDog Sent Ya", when Farburg Burger Bones were banned in Nearburg, Cat and Dog set up a speakeasy at their place.

    Real Life

    • Al Capone was officially an antiques dealer. He even owned an antique shop. However, most people, including the police and the press, knew what he really was, but could not arrest him, and ended up arresting him for tax evasion.
    • The Japanese Yakuza gangs stand in an interesting contrast to this trope: they are in no way secret societies, and openly maintain offices. Members may even have business cards. (Then again, they are quite unlike Western criminal organizations in many other ways as well.)
    • Dean O'Banion ran a floral shop in addition to his bootlegging operation. He was evidently a pretty good florist, and seemed to have as much of a passion for flowers as he did for crime. Admittedly, many of his customers were mobsters, but it wasn't a money-laundering business. He was just good with flowers, and they knew him.
    • There is a post doing rounds in Tumblr about a guy belatedly realizing they were eating in a Mafia front, and people added on their own anecdotes on eating in similar Mafia fronts. One poster lived in a town with such an amount of these, they had become Genre Savvy about it.

    toloveviceforitself: Look, I went to college and lived my early adulthood in a town whose entire thing was import/export, and we had a lot of restaurants that were suspiciously empty except when they were closed and filled with very serious men in nice clothes.
    They were usually run by someone who was about the right age to be some adult’s parents or grandparents, and in the case of the two Korean restaurants matching this description, they didn’t speak English. Universally though, they were very pleased to see customers, very proud of their cooking, and very very interested in keeping us far away from the aforementioned serious men in nice clothes. And despite having huge dining rooms and never having more than a couple customers, they never went out of business.