Over yonder in the the concrete jungle known as New York City, there is a dispute brewing between strippers and bartenders. The issue is by no means a catfight; in fact, it stems from a lack of fair or clear working practices for dancers, as well as from racism on the parts of club owners, the entertainers and their supporters say.
The first of the two issues involves “startenders,” or “bottle girls” as they are sometimes known: a type of bartender that club promoters hire in order to bring more customers in. These drop-in, amateur mixologists have mastered the art of social media and built for themselves a massive following, which, for the promoters, translates to more money. The problem here is that the money isn’t exactly going to the dancers who come in to work every day.
Take Panama, for example: she’s one of the dancers currently involved in the #NYCStrippersStrike. Last year, she was at work collecting her bread when all of a sudden one of the “startenders” started taking some of the benjamins customers were raining down for Panama’s show for herself. A struggle ensued which ultimately ended with the club bosses siding against Panama, she told The Washington Post.
Panama was compensated a mere $200 that night. That’s chump change.
“The next day I had a swollen ankle during my son’s birthday and all I could think about was how I got treated at work,” Panama told the Post. “When I went back to the club they said they looked at the cameras and said it was my money. But there was nothing they could do about it then.”
The problem for Panama was that the money was gone the minute the bartender left, as this “startender” was not a permanent bartending employee at the establishment.
Architecture is an underlying factor in the issue: the designated pole area in these clubs is usually behind the bar, which wraps around the entire platform, giving bartenders access to dancers’ tips. The second factor is that the “startenders” are essentially wearing the same scanty getups as the dancers.
The standards set for strippers and the so-called bartenders are also uneven. Strippers have to pay a “house fee” in order to get a chance to dance — “startenders” don’t.
Another issue is at play: race and racism.
According to the multitude of dancers shedding light on the issue, whenever clubs hold VIP nights that involve celebrity visits, dark-skinned strippers are typically kept away from the top-dollar-earning time slots.
“What I do understand and acknowledge is that there is racism against black women in most of the [New York] strip clubs!” Kay Slay, a well-known disc jockey in the Big Apple, said in an Instagram post. “It has been going on for a while now it didn’t just start? At some of my events when it’s celebrities in the VIP I have to grab the black women by their hands and pull them into VIP.”
The 51-year-old musician isn’t the only one that’s taken notice of the issue, either. Cardi B, a rapper of “Bodak Yellow” fame, who was a stripper in the past, spoke on the matter to Vlad TV.
“Have you ever been to a strip club in New York?” the 25-year-old musician asked. “It’s kind of sad. Do you know that right now in the strip club — in New York — the bartenders are the new thing right now and if you notice they don’t even hire black bartenders.”
Speaking to Page Six, La La Anthony also agreed that the strippers weren’t getting the dollars that they deserve.
“I know that scene well. I go to strip clubs, I have friends that are strippers, I have friends that are bartenders,” the television personality told the outlet. “Now the bartenders are the hottest things, and they are getting all the money, and no one is paying the strippers. It is definitely a tricky thing… [but] there is a lane for everyone.”