- New York strippers are organising a strike to protest discrimination in the industry.
- One issue: a new wave of bartenders — also known as “startenders” or bottle girls — have started taking away tips, sometimes even snatching money off the stage.
- Startenders have risen to prominence in the last few years with the rise of Instagram, where they command huge followings.
New York City strippers are speaking out against what they say is unfair treatment at the hands of club promoters and managers.
With the rise of “bottle girl” bartenders in the city, dancers say they’re dealing with unfair treatment, including insufficient pay and racial discrimination, the Washington Post reported. According to strippers, bottle girls — who often are just as scantily clad as strippers — are given preferential treatment and hurt strippers’ profits, sometimes literally taking dancers’ cash off of tables.
About a week ago, strippers organised under the hashtag #NYCStripperStrike to shine a light on these issues.
Here’s how bottle girls rose to prominence in recent years — and how they play a role in the recent strike.
While strippers have been club mainstays for decades, about five years ago, club owners began hiring attractive women with sizable social media followings to serve as bartenders.
Many of these bottle girls have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. And, some of these followers will show up to clubs just to see the bartenders in person.
Often, clubs will have the startenders dress in matching, skimpy outfits and promote their appearances on social media.
In theory, the main difference between the two is that strippers dance while bartenders serve drinks.
However, strippers say that increasingly scantily-clad bottle girls are also dancing, basically fulfilling the same role as strippers -- to the other workers' disadvantage.
Strippers pay a 'house fee,' typically at least $US50, to perform at the club. Bartenders don't pay fees, but they also rely on tips.
A New York City stripper who goes by the name Panama professionally says that strippers' pay has plummeted since the rise of bottle girls, dropping from thousands of dollars a night to roughly $US400.
'Bartenders tell customers not to tip us,' dancer Gizelle Marie told the Washington Post. 'They block us from the customers while we dance or they are sweeping our money off the stage.'
She and others argue that the rise of bartenders has furthered fed into issues of racism in clubs. The strike organisers argue that strippers are more likely to be black or dark-skinned, while bartenders are more likely to be white.
As the strippers' strike has gotten more press, some celebrities have started to speak out on the topic.
'The bartenders are the new things right now ... They don't even hire black bartenders in New York City strip clubs, which is sad,' rapper and former stripper Cardi B said in a recent interview.
'Personally I feel they should drop both titles 'Strippers and Bartenders' because it's all the same s--- now,' DJ Kay Slay said in an Instagram post, emphasising that racism remains a major issue in the industry.
Strike organisers have been quick to emphasise that they aren't trying to demonise startenders -- they're trying to improve the lives of women working as strippers and take on club promoters and managers.