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Go-go clubs 'strip' down

Sacha Walters, Staff Reporter

There might soon be a massive reduction in the number of strip clubs following the government's recent decision not to issue any more work permits to overseas exotic dancers.

Several of the clubs where these foreign dancers worked, are now no longer enjoying the success they previously had before the clampdown.

"Right now mi a tink bout turning it into a restaurant," said Oneil Pinto, owner of the popular Fantasy nightclub on the 'famous' Port Henderson 'Back Road' in Portmore, St. Catherine. Pinto says he is saved by the fact that he owns the building the club is on, so he has leased it to new management who runs the club with solely local dancers.

The government announced the decision last month on the premise that they were various breaches by the work permit holders.

Pinto says he was unable to run a club with only local girls as he caters to high end clientele who come to see the foreign girls. He says the financial rewards was greater with five high end clients drinking and tipping the girls than he makes with clients who are drawn to the local dancers.

"It keep away the idlers. When a guy know seh him only have $200 or $500 dem stay away," he said.

"From we stop bring in foreigners we nuh see dem type of customers them no more ... business way down."

Pinto reveals he had up to 15 dancers, eight to 10 of whom, were Spanish or Russian. He said apart from the fact that foreigners attract high paying customers they were more reliable. "Those people know dem come fi work, locals dem here today gone tomorrow," he said, adding that apart from this fact there are not enough local girls to meet the demand of the clubs.

Basil Williams, general manager of Platinum Elite, a club in the Corporate Area, which also caters to upscale professionals, decision makers and tourists, admitted that some clubs with foreign dancers are now feeling the pinch but said his club is one of the lucky ones.

"I'm not feeling it yet ... because most of my girls are still here," Williams said, adding that his girls already had permits or had their permits extended. "We've always had majority local girls."

He said of their 29 dancers, only nine are foreigners but their business does depend on them. Earlier this year there was a temporary hold on work permits and his business fell by 60 per cent. "We have dancers here that work in the Caribbean," he said they travel to countries like St. Martin and Curacoa and many are university graduates. Why shouldn't we give them work permits?" He asked, adding that Jamaicans travel all over the world, not only as dancers, and are granted work permits.

One 22-year-old foreign dancer who works in Kingston said she has been in the country for a few months and will have to return home soon because she has no permit. "When they open it back, I come back," said the young lady with her limited English language skills.

In the meantime the Minister of Labour and Social Security, Derrick Kellier says that he will not be able to say when the suspension will be eased until a meeting is held between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the other relevant bodies to analyse the position. A date has not yet been set for the meeting.

November 13, 2006

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