Brutal reality of running strip clubs with dancers in PPE and 10pm curfew
The owners of three strip clubs have warned their businesses are in peril and they may have to shed all their staff as coronavirus restrictions bite.
Glenn and Jenny Nicie, who employ more than 300 dancers and 150 staff at Playhouse Gentlemen’s Club, Fantasy Lounge, and For Your Eyes Only in the Welsh capital have issued a dire warning about the state of their industry.
They have been forced to close the clubs after only re-opening as a bar two weeks ago, Wales Online reports.
All staff, including dancers, were wearing masks and full PPE – while no striptease or dances on a pole were allowed.
They believe they are a forgotten industry amid the pandemic and say that if the 10pm curfew for licensed venues remains in place then they will have to close.
“No striptease was allowed despite being a no-contact club,” Jenny said.
“It doesn’t make sense that you can’t watch a pole dancer on stage despite the stage being over four metres distance, two metres more than the recommended guideline.
“All of my staff have kids and bills to pay. The new furlough offer doesn’t help us or this industry which has been forgotten.
“Why shut down the night-time economy? Why does the daytime economy take precedence over the night time? If something doesn’t change by the end of October I’m bust. I will lose my home and everything I’ve worked for.
“Telling my staff that we are now closed was crushing. Under the new scheme it doesn’t help me and I can’t afford to pay their wages anymore.”
Kayla has worked at For Your Eyes Only as a dancer for two years.
The 22-year-old, who is self-employed, has been living off her savings since March. She is a full-time carer for her mother who contracted coronavirus in April.
Kayla’s mum, who is in her 50s, was admitted to hospital where she was in an intensive care unit (ICU) on a ventilator.
“It’s been difficult,” she said. “My mum had the virus and was in ICU for the best part of the month. She’s home now but she’s been signed off work.
“We have been living off savings that I put away from work.”
Kayla admitted she has had sleepless nights over money and worrying about paying for food and the bills.
“Those savings are eventually going to run out and we are not getting any help.
“That’s why night work is perfect for me because I am caring for my mum now so working days is not really viable.
“She’s gone from being really healthy and being independent and doing everything for herself to when she came out of hospital I am showering her, doing everything for her, and assisting her with everything.
“It’s been hard on me because I can’t come to work, I can’t make any money, and I have still got a house, bills, and food to pay for,” she said.
Kayla started off as a waitress at the club before she became a dancer.
“There’s a lot of stigma that comes with the word ‘stripper’. You might get an amazing night, you might not.
“The job is not as easy as what people think it is. Mentally it can be draining. You are working long hours and talking to people. You become a therapist – they offload their problems and life on you.
“Physically it’s difficult.”
Bars, cafés, and restaurants in Wales must stop serving alcohol at 10pm every night as part of new measures to limit the spread of coronavirus which came into force on September 24.
Kayla said no-one in the industry could see the curfew coming. She added: “Work have been great with PPE, masks and visors. We couldn’t operate with pole shows or dances – it has just been conversation where we stayed two metres apart and wear masks.
“We were so glad that we could go back to work. Even though we weren’t operating as normal we were just glad to work.
“For a lot of us you are studying or, if you have kids, night-time work is just what works for us. A lot of us can’t work days for different reasons.
“With this being closed we are just sitting and waiting to see what happens. It feels like the whole world is going against you.
“At 4pm in the afternoon people are still out shopping or at work. No-one is going to come in here and spend a substantial amount of money in the daytime – it’s a late-night venue.”
Layla has worked in the industry for five years and, like Kayla, she started off as a waitress at the club before becoming a dancer.
The 24-year-old also has to live off her savings and she has had to move into a smaller and cheaper property while she tries to come up with a second plan.
“It’s the same as anyone else who can’t physically go to work – going to work for people is routine and it’s got the social aspect,” she said.
“To be ostracised from both of those things is actually really detrimental to your own wellbeing.
“There are girls who work in the same club as us who have kids, some of them have three. There’s a few girls who are single mums – it’s their only source of income.
“It’s not only the money side of it – we are really close in this industry, we know all of the owners, you know everyone.”
Layla said that she would describe her job role as an entertainer or dancer.
She added: “I’ve been up here for three hours before and just spoke to a client.
“The word ‘stripper’ is an older term and it’s moved on since then – it’s very different now.
“Sometimes you don’t do any of that and you just sit and have a chat.
“You need to have a thick skin to do this job, be confident, and have resilience as you can get a million nos before you get a yes.
“You have to adapt to people’s personalities so you can appeal to what they like.
“There’s always a doorman here. Every night is different. Sometimes you get people come in at open, between 8pm and 10pm, and you could do well instantly.
“Sometimes you get slower nights that don’t start until 2-3am.
“It’s surprising for people that it is extremely safe and we are well looked-after.”
Club co-owner Glenn is originally from New Zealand and said he was the first person in the UK to open an American-style strip club in 1995.
The 58-year-old said the businesses were doing well before the pandemic.
“We spent all the money on PPE for two weeks’ worth of trade and then we had to shut down.
“We have had no income or support. Working with the council we have only just managed to open as a bar.
“The 10pm curfew was just a death nail into our business.
“October 31 is certainly going to be Halloween for a lot of people.
“The hospitality industry represents 3% of the infection rate – there’s a lot of things out there that they should be dealing with rather than the hospitality industry.”
Jenny, 38, believes that if this carries on it will potentially leave thousands of hospitality staff across the UK reliant on universal credit.
“Something needs to be done,” she said. “We were the first ordered to close in March and received no help – we were not eligible for any grants.
“We applied for the Welsh [Economic] Resilience Fund – they replied within 24 hours and said no because we could bring the Welsh Government into disrepute.
“However last year I paid £440,000 in tax to the Welsh Government.”
Jenny said she feels simultaneously responsible and helpless with her staff likely to lose their jobs at the end of October.
“Who comes out of their office then goes to a venue like this? They go into a restaurant or a pub.
“More food led-businesses will work with the restrictions not us.
“The reason why nightclubs have been targeted is that they are based on stand-up drinking and mass numbers.
“We are not, we are different. We are seated and we don’t work on mass numbers. Now these girls are being affected because of it and that’s not fair,” she added.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We are helping as many businesses as possible and our rates relief scheme, business grants, and unique Economic Resilience Fund are providing support to thousands of firms across Wales.
“Some businesses have been unsuccessful when applying for financial assistance as they do not meet the eligibility criteria for Welsh Government support.
“Our support schemes are in addition to the UK Government’s, which should be explored in the first instance.”
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