I was a chef for seventeen years before I started managing a gentleman’s club, leading a team of twenty-two chefs over five kitchens. I loved working in hospitality, but eventually I decided to throw it all away. I landed a job as an operations manager at a gentleman’s club, organising bar stock and preparing the venue for business. Over time I attempted to progress some ideas, but met with the same resistance by upper management that had ultimately led me to walk away from my career as a chef. The people in charge maintained a lot of old-school mindsets, and had a set way of doing things. There was no room to move under their management. So, I entered into a new gentleman’s club business that was all about new ideas and they also shared the same values of making a hospitality venue successful.
I started as the venue manager and was able to be on the frontline and work closely with the dancers and customers, which let me set out to achieve the goals I had once envisaged at the previous club.
Eventually I moved up in the business and was able to train other managers in the same ideas and goals, which was very rewarding. Managing a strip club is much like managing a regular nightclub, and completely different at the same time. On one hand it is just another sector of the hospitality industry. You have the same problems as any other venue. On the other, in a strip club setting you have more time to work through them. Where my previous employers fell short was that they were not hospitality people. They didn’t understand the industry in a way that would assist the business. It takes a very special kind of person to be able to manage a venue like that.
In a regular nightclub problems tend to be black and white, but in a strip club they are much more complex. The people are different. You are not just managing staff; you are managing young women in an environment where emotions are high.
A bad manager will direct, but a good manager will lead by example. A great manager is approachable on all levels, to the dancers and the customers. They must be willing to listen. Part of the role is about guiding the girls, teaching them and helping them to train their mindsets. It is useful to identify what knowledge you have in your management role.
I can’t tell a dancer how to perform on a pole, but I can coach her in sales, goal-setting and budgeting. Dancing is a very personal and emotional experience, so because I understand the dancers, they can feel comfortable coming to me if they have a problem outside that will affect them at work.
A goal, a budget and a drive to achieve are the three key ingredients to succeed in this workplace. A great dancer remains focused on her goals and on earning the money she wants. If the dancer maintains a good attitude and is able to listen, she will make good money. I encourage them to keep their core reason for dancing at the forefront of their minds, as it is what will keep them on track and see them through the hard times. I ask them to think about why they want to work as a dancer, and what they want to get out of it. If they don’t know what they want, then dancing may prove to be too big a challenge for them. Having the looks is only one part of the job; you also need the confidence to back it up. Obviously you also need to feel comfortable being naked and having people touch you, otherwise it is probably not the job for you.
At our club we do have expectations for appearances for the dancers, which does include a dress code of sorts. The girls are asked to wear classy lingerie outfits that are matching, and a specific style of shoe. We require a minimum number of shifts to be worked per week, but we are flexible on our terms. It is a system based on understanding and cooperation— if the girls work with us, we will work with them.
Some people may consider fees and fines to be an unfair requirement of the job, considering that most people don’t ‘pay’ to go to work each day. And many clubs do abuse the system and use fees and fines as an extra source of revenue to exploit the dancers. We charge a reasonable house fee with a basic structure. A dancer is a contractor, and we supply the venue for her to work in, along with the marketing and customers. We will not fine a dancer black and blue, for example if she was wearing the wrong colour nail polish.
We have three reasons why we might fine our dancers:
- If they are late for a shift,
- If they do not submit their roster on time, or
- If they don’t show up for work.
We focus our penalties on misconduct. If a girl is drunk and arguing or wasting time and we have to send her home, she will be fined. There is no point in her being at work in that state, and because she has wasted her own time and ours, the club is down a dancer for the night. If you were working as an employee, you would receive a number of warnings before being dismissed. I am not interested in taking money from dancers, but we do have a business to operate, and we have to make sure each night runs smoothly.
What we did when we started our own clubs was work with the fundamental ideals of running a gentleman’s club, which was providing a high quality of service, value for money, and loyalty, both with the customers and the dancers. Word spreads fast about clubs through the dancing community, and understandably a dancer will not hesitate to go where she has the best potential to earn money and where she will be treated fairly. A lot of places will see the dancer as just another number, and when she quits, another will take her place. The truth is that without the girls the strip club is just a club. The dancers are the core of our business, and if we look after them, they will look after us.
Paid To Dance: Asha’s Story Part Two is AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER in paperback and Kindle eBook for release WORLDWIDE on July 20th, 2018.