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...
Strippers all over the UK will be looking at the news of Britain voting LEAVE in the Brexit refendum and wondering how it will affect their jobs in the stripclub industry. Exotic dancing in the UK is heavily affected by immigration and the economy, so actually this is a pretty valid Brexit question to ask.
Lapdancers are some of the first to feel the effects of a recession, and as their client base is often bankers, lapdancers usually hear about the recession first too! But it’s clear that both the markets and the political elite did not expect a leave vote, and I am sure that in the multicultural changing rooms of Platinum Lace and Spearmint Rhino, a dozen different languages will be voicing their fears for the future tonight.
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,VIP time, door entry, service charges, tips and additional 5- 20% charges for using cards as a method of payment. But strip joints nowadays also 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 20 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 that will dry up both their revenue streams. Even though I personally believe that dancers should be charged no fees, the fact is that they are, it bolsters the clubs accounts in a predictable and satisfying manner – and that may now change dramatically.
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. 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 with several closures and a dwindling customer base. Young trendy techies are more likely to grab a coffee or visit a pop-up bar than put a pound in the pint jar whilst nursing a beer in a pub with blacked-out windows. 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. Strip-pubs are also a lower priced entry point for stripping – they charge no door fee, you need only contribute £1+ for every 15 minute show, and the drinks are at pub prices rather than marked up for the West End with hidden service charges. If Brexit leads to a resurgence of nationalism and English culture, then strip-pubs may flourish once again if they are viewed with a nostalgic, Carry On Up the Strip-Pub rosy light. Bosomy Babes in a Union Jack Gstring anyone?
For the dancers who are able to stay, the changing room will look very different. The majority – if not all – stripclubs in London, and much of the UK, is heavily skewed towards mostly Eastern European dancers. Women have come in waves as the European Union expanded – first the Polish, with Romania the most recent. Each have been able to showcase a different type of beauty, culture, selling technique and language. But the influx did contribute to more lapdancers on the floor every evening, as well as a short-term attitude as dancers came, and went, and came back again (although the same happens with student dancers etc. and short-termism is what makes exotic dancing so attractive to many time-pressurized women) Non-migrationary strippers have always demanded more rights and job protection, as working in the same place everyday will naturally lead to calls to make it better. So stripclub bosses may find that their workforce is less pliable than previously – could this lead to the reforms that I have been campaigning for with The East London Strippers Collective? An end to arbitrary fines and dismissal? Actual dialogue and regular meetings between the club patriarchy and the dancers who work for them?
If women from Poland, Romania, Czechsolvakia and other EU countries are forced into hanging up their 6″ Pleasers, then the club floor will look deserted. Backstage will be filled with accents, not languages. It’ll be good news for the British dancers, as fewer in the labour market will give them more bargaining power. Hustling could slow down, as ladies wouldn’t need to swarm around customers as soon as they walk in. English politeness will return as the customers are less paralaysed by the sheer availabilty on offer, whilst dancers are less pressurised to make a sale, as big and as fast as possible. 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.
Finally, the big Stripanomics Brexit question …. if the pound drops – could we see lapdance prices fall too? I doubt it – they have been £20 a dance for almost 2 decades now. Brexit or not, a dancer doesn’t drop her knickers for less than £20 in London – she is flashing her gash for cash after all.