Strippers vow to continue working in Edinburgh despite venues banned
The strippers have vowed to continue working in Edinburgh despite the venue being banned – which will put nearly 100 dancers out of work.
Councilors have voted to impose the ‘zero ceiling’ policy which will see the ‘pubic triangle’ of Westport bars and a fourth town center club close, amid concerns over links to violence against women .
Edinburgh City Council has been threatened with legal action by the United Sex Workers union, which fears women will face further harm if they work on the books without the protection of a place.
A protest will take place next month with dancers from most or all four clubs.
The managers of two of the bars also confirmed they had sought advice from lawyers – and some dancers admitted to gambling illegally during the lockdown due to demand from punters.
Mum-of-three Bonnie, who works as a dancer, said she felt safer stripping down than out clubbing with friends.
She said: “I had my drink in a nightclub a few weeks ago. I was shocked. I feel safer here than on a normal night out.
“It’s been a bit quiet since the vote hit the papers, it’s like people think we’re already closed. We need to let people know we’re very open for business.
“The demand won’t stop if they shut us down. The council has no idea what they’re doing.
“They just ignored what we told them about safety. It’s like we were being unfairly targeted for the wrong reasons, it’s not about our safety. It’s a vendetta.
“Events will take place in private. I have done some during the closures. I will not continue.
“Even if we worked in pairs, I still wouldn’t. You can’t predict what customers are like in these situations without cameras or security.
“It’s a controlled environment here. Guys can let off steam, get a little titillated. Some just want company. What if that’s taken away from them?”
It comes after councils were given powers to limit EAS following a 2019 Scottish Government document concluding that all sex work, including stripping, amounts to violence against women.
Opponents say sex entertainment venues are part of the problem, while unions and industry have warned they could put them at risk at unlicensed private events held in unregulated places like hotels and Airbnbs .
But the council’s regulatory committee voted five to four to ban the clubs outright by setting at zero the number of sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) that should be allowed in the city under a new regime of licenses.
Labor councilor Joan Griffiths, who proposed the ban, said the council would “work with women to help them consider their careers and other employment options”.
Some dancers say they will refuse to be deported and will continue to strip – despite the heightened risks.
Sarah, 37, said: “There’s no way it’s about our safety. It smacks of shame. When it suits us, we’re either victims or bitches. Municipal elections are coming up , so some want to make their point.
“I would say to anyone with a strong opinion to come talk to us, see for yourself what we’re up to.”
“We have autonomy. I don’t know any dancers here who are victims or lack self-esteem. We are nurses, lawyers, owners, students, fitness instructors.
“I’m taking all the shifts I can get and will consider continuing privately if we close.
“We need to see real acceptance of women’s choice over what we do with our bodies.
“It shouldn’t be forced upon us. Politicians should instead look to the real inequalities in many workplaces – like the pay gap.”
The Equally Safe Edinburgh Committee argues that lap-dancing clubs suggest that “the objectification of women is culturally acceptable”, while SEVs discriminate against women, who would feel “unwanted” or unsafe in the neighbourhood.
The Burke and Hare pub manager is a former stripper and has dismissed the claims.
Manager Jade said: “Our bar staff are all female and we welcome females as well. We get customers from all over society – singles, business people, boy and girl groups.
“Dancers don’t have to be here. The police have spoken out in our favor and local residents support us. These are regulated venues with CCTV outside and inside.”
“This decision is not based on reality. A group has brought serious charges of rape and prostitution. It is insulting and defamatory.
“They are about our real lives here – not a gangster movie. There is no evidence that there is any correlation between these places and violence against women.
“If they want to put women’s safety first, they won’t shut us down and force them into unsafe, unregulated situations. Unfortunately there is a stigma and it’s shocking to us who still haven’t not disappeared.
“But the problem here is a misconception. Councilors who visited voted to allow us to stay open.
“That says it all. It’s unfair that people who haven’t set foot here can pit their personal opinions against us.”
A spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council said: “The Regulatory Committee has agreed to adopt the Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEV) licensing scheme from 1 April 2023.
“He approved the policy and condition of license for these sites and set the appropriate number of sites in the city to zero.
“It is important to note that SEVs can still apply for a license and the committee would consider them to be contrary to the policy agreed today.”
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