Sassy by name, Sassy by nature, I write to explode the myths which surround the lapdancing profession - standing up for the clubs, the girls and the customers. Its not always drinking champagne and playing with my tits - it can be hassle, hustling and hangovers. At heart I'm just a regular twenty-something posh cockney living in London who likes taking her clothes off...
It’s time to take a fresh look at Brexit’s possible effects on Britain’s stripclub culture, as it is representative of the hospitality industry by relying heavily on a diverse workforce and a healthy economy. With a client base of city workers and bankers, and a predominantly immigrant female workforce, lapdancers are on the front line of Brexit.
Firstly, let me explain the Stripanomics.
All strip venues – the big clubs in a metropolis, the strip-pubs of East London, even the small venues dotted around the UK in commuter towns – they all have two streams of revenue – the customers and the dancers. Customer revenue comes from spending on drinks, dances, and additional charges of 5-20% for using cards as a method of payment. But strip joints nowadays use the dancers as a revenue stream too – the girls get charged a daily/nightly ‘house fee’ of anything up to £85, or get charged a negligible sum of around £10 then pay commission of between 20-50%. A small club with 25 exotic dancers a night will be used to making £1000 in daily house fees alone before a single customer has even walked through the door. A big city club can have up to a hundred girls working on a Friday night – that’s £5k at least! Club managers must be worried now – if there is an exodus of European dancers due to immigration rules changing, plus the economy fails – then both their revenue streams will dry up. Even though I campaign with the East London Strippers Collective for no house fees, we are worried about any dramatic legislative changes that are out of our control.
If a recession happens, there would not only be fewer clients but they would also spend less.
As the price of daily life increases, then fun nights out will be seen as a luxury – and stripclubs are the most luxurious of all. The average price of a lapdance has been £20 for almost 20 years now, but if the economy nosedives desperate management may start offering discounts. I can’t see the industry growing like it did during the Labour years when a change in club licensing saw a boom in clubs up and down the country. If client spending does not increase to make up for the fall in daily dancer revenue then we could see cutbacks to staffing, more aggressive pricing – even the closure of some clubs.
Could Brexit’s jingoism halt the decline in traditional pubs with a striptease element?
In London the trend over the past decade has been for big venues with many dancers, a relatively high entry fee, £20 dances and VIP hourly sessions costing hundreds of pounds. Traditional strip-pubs have been declining as they battle gentrification and a dwindling customer base. Many now believe the media hype about dancer exploitation and think that by spending their money in a strip venue they are being immoral and anti-feminist. However it is strip-pubs which need our support, as not only are they culturally and historically important to East End culture, but they offer greater employment flexibility for the dancers with shorter working hours and are performance rather than appearance and sales based. If Brexit leads to a resurgence of nationalism and English culture, then strip-pubs may flourish once again if they are viewed nostalgically.
For the dancers who can stay, the changing room will look very different.
Many stripclubs in the UK are heavily skewed towards mostly Eastern European dancers. As the European Union expanded, women have come in waves, with each nationality showcasing a different type of beauty, culture, selling technique and language. British dancers have enjoyed ‘unicorn’ status, as their rarity gives them an advantage with customers. But if women from EU countries are forced to hang up their heels, then the club floor will look deserted. Backstage will be filled with accents, not languages. Interestingly, the few truly ‘exotic’ dancers who are still legally allowed to work will probably clean up – many men will always plump for the opposite to what they have at home. So even if the number of dancers in clubs falls, it might not see an increase in earnings, as customers go online or to private and unregulated sex workers to get their ‘exotic fix’. In this industry at least, the more diversity a club has, the happier the clientele.
Could a more stable workforce lead to better employment rights?
Dancers currently have few rights at work, with arbitrary fines and dismissal by non-communicative management a regular occurrence. In the future stripclub bosses may find that their workforce is less pliable and abundant, which could lead to a better dialogue and the reforms that I have been campaigning for with The East London Strippers Collective.
Although often misunderstood, stripping is a valid form of employment, a part-time job that fits around family life and university surprisingly well. With the cuts to education and social services many women will be looking for flexible work opportunities, and so it will be a shame if the striptease industry is unable to weather the effects of Brexit. So visit your local and get a dance this summer – we will all be the richer for it.