Does Milwaukee need another “gentleman’s club”?

By - Sep 1st, 2010 04:00 am

Most of us are aware that two new “gentleman’s clubs” have been proposed for the metro Milwaukee area; “Satin” in Walker’s Point (and within the Arts Building — VITAL Source’s former home– no less) and “Silk East” on Old World Third Street. The owners of Silk Exotic filed for licenses for both locations in mid-August, but the question is whether the Common Council will approve them, given the fact that a license for “Satin” was denied a year ago in the face of rising public opposition to the idea of adding more strip joints to the metro area, and particularly downtown.

TCD’s Assistant News Editor Patti Wenzel and visual arts writer Ryan Findley weigh in with two decidedly different opinions on the subject.

PRO: Added business creates more jobs
Patti Wenzel

To put it simply: I think the gentleman’s clubs proposed for downtown and Walker’s Point are a great way to give some empty buildings new life and bring jobs to Milwaukee.

I’ve frequented Jokerz Comedy Club, located in the same building as Silk, and have stopped in the adults-only club. This is not the seedy, polyester-ridden strip club of the movies with a bunch of losers leering at strung-out dancers. Instead, there were businessmen enjoying lunch, some couples having drinks and a bachelor party doing what bachelors do.

As long as there are no zoning or criminal issues, these clubs should be given the go-ahead. No one is required to patronize these establishments and they are a legally-allowed business under the city’s codes.


This business group tried to open a club on Pittsburgh Street (in the building adjacent to the Arts Building) last fall. The opposition was sizable, with over 100 e-mails received by Ald. Jim Wikowiak against it. The Fifth Ward Association collected more than 300 signatures opposing the development prior to the withdrawal of the club’s license application.

Ursula Twombly, president of the association, said the club isn’t welcome  because it will erode the character of the developing neighborhood.

That argument is weak. The Fifth Ward, or as it’s better known, Walker’s Point, is an entertainment center. There are numerous bars and restaurants, Comedy Sportz and a thriving LGBT club scene. The addition of a proven business model should be welcomed to bring new patrons and money into the neighborhood.

The downtown location would feature a high-class club with a restaurant and bar, and would more than likely cater to convention-goers. With the exception of a few restaurants in the adjoining area, there are no entertainment venues to occupy out-of-town visitors along Wisconsin Avenue.

And what about the arguments that these clubs degrade women and lead to increased crime?

The increased crime argument doesn’t fly. A study conducted by UC-Santa Barbara sociologist Daniel Linz contends that scanty or non-existent clothing doesn’t effect the crime rate, but alcohol does.

Quoted on, Linz said “Alcohol facilitates criminal activity. Drinks are often more expensive at sexually oriented businesses, security is stricter and the biggest contributor to fights at bars is nonexistent. You can’t get into fights about women because, for $15, the woman will sit next to you. All of the situational variables that are associated with aggression are removed.”

A check of the Milwaukee Police Department’s database shows there have been no calls to Silk Exotic and no major criminal activity in the adjacent neighborhood this past year. In Walker’s Point, there also have been zero complaints to either the police or local alderman for Solid Gold on S. First Street.

For some women, dancing in a club is a legal way for them to make a really nice paycheck. Some  are working their way through school or raising a child, and I like the idea that they’remaking their own money and not seeking a check or food card from the state.

And if we’re really concerned about degrading or objectifying women, where are the protesters in front of Frederick’s of Hollywood or Victoria’s Secret, where mannequins in scanty outfits advertise sex and sexuality in glass-front locations? These proposed clubs, if similar to their competitors throughout the county, look like ubiquitous storefronts or restaurants with the g-strings hidden behind closed doors.

Let’s just loosen up. These are businesses that will create jobs and give patrons a pleasant place to leave their cash. In this economy, why are we trying to stifle business development?

CON: Silk seeks a monopoly on female objectification
Ryan Findley

Where to start?

Silk East, proposed for 730 N. Old World Third St.

How about with the euphemism “gentleman’s club.” Does anyone honestly believe that those who frequent such establishments are gentlemen, or that regular visits will make a man a gentleman? I hope not. Let’s be honest: repeated visits to a club where men get drunk and watch women take their clothes off is far more likely to create a creepy predator than a gentleman.

Even in economic terms, spending all that money on tipping (hey, singles add up!) is likely going to hurt said male amoeba’s bottom line. It’s not a lifestyle that one can become accustomed to without a solid foundation in independent wealth.

So, “strip club,” then. Moving on.

While I would love to take issue with the “Vegas-style” moniker simply because I find Vegas to be a cesspool of broken humanity and desperation, I won’t. I will, however, point out that prostitution is legal in Vegas, making the term “Vegas-style” seem raunchier than it can possibly here in Milwaukee, where our solid Midwestern values keep the scourge of sex-trafficking, if not out of our cities, at least prosecutable.

Paying women to objectify themselves is bad enough; I would prefer not to speculate on the specter that is legal prostitution, where those particular profits would end up and what they’d be used for.

Tehn there are the locations of these two proposed establishments. One in Walker’s Point, a stone’s throw from Solid Gold, and the other downtown, within spitting distance of Art’s Performing Center. How many strip clubs can a few city blocks support?

A view of existing clubs, courtesy City of Milwaukee

Particularly in the case of the Walker’s Point location, I must say: not that many. While as a neighborhood the area is on the up, it is still mostly composed of empty warehouses and industrial spaces. There just aren’t enough people there to support two strip clubs, and the current nightlife denizens are not the type to be amenable to naked women (this location is right across the street from The Ball Game).

While downtown has a much greater population density and varied nightlife personality, it is patently clear that the intent is for Silk to take out the competition and become the only operator of skin bars in town. Do we really want a monopoly on female objectification?

What happens in a monopoly? Oh, right: conditions degrade, for both customers and employees. So, we’ve got a group of women already “on the fringes” by most standards, and we’re proposing to allow them to be pushed fully into the embrace of a single entity that will be able to control all access to the type of work they’d like to do.

Stripping is inherently a bit dangerous. There’s always the possibility of stalkers and violence. Removing a woman’s options in her employer can carry far, far heavier personal consequences in such an environment than in, say, banking.

So, we’ve got a corporation that makes it’s money on the back(sides) of women while perpetrating the myth that females are nothing but physical objects to be ogled. That same entity insinuates the desire to take their business much, much further than mere stripping in their tagline, and would like to become a monopoly provider of live adult entertainment.

This sounds like a real winner to me. Definitely.

Now the question is:  What do you think, Milwaukee?

For more information on this issue, Ald. Jim Witkowiak and community members will be holding a meeting at Comedy Sports on S. First Street on Sept. 8 at 6 p.m.

0 thoughts on “Does Milwaukee need another “gentleman’s club”?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t this a tad sexist? If it was a male strip club that was the focus (da deer hunters’ widow stuff), then what?????

    the chick in the plastic shoes must shop at Mr. Shoe on Farwell?

    Nice contrast in these viewpoints. I think TCD should do some interviews with strippers, both he and she.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If these two proposed clubs are run like the original Silk on Silver Spring Drive, there will be a ladies night with beefcake as the offering. Judith, maybe you and I need to do some research? 😉

  3. Anonymous says:

    You lovely ladies know that Airport Lounge usually has a separate section with dude strippers for the ladies (and, i’d assume, the gay dudes), yes?

    As a feminist sometime-patron of the strip clubs, my take is “sheesh, how many downtown strip joints do we need?” There’s being pro-sex industry, and then there’s overkill. Let’s share the wealth–open one in Whitefish Bay or Fox Point!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Preliminary findings from Teela Sanders and Kate Hardy of the University of Leeds show that nearly 90 percent of women who perform lap dances (a much raunchier affair than in the states) had completed at least one higher education course and 25 percent had undergrad degrees. Putting some weight behind the stereotype, they found that 14 percent were stripping to help pay their way through school. The Sun reports that “most said flexibility was the main attraction of the job” (ha).
    The most controversial finding is that they feel empowered by their work. Sanders, whose research often focuses on sex work, says: “These young women do not buy the line that they are being exploited, because they are the ones making the money out of a three-minute dance and a bit of a chat.”

  5. Anonymous says:

    Personally, I don’t like strip clubs and agree more with Ryan. But where are the more progressive models of sex entertainment? How about trans- strippers? Obese strippers? Bondage strippers? Butch strippers? Bear strippers? Come on! How many pairs of boobs can people ogle?! Strip joints are like the McDonald’s of sex.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wouldn’t they be the McDonald’s of sex if they had *more* obese strippers?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Silk = The Olive Garden of MKE strip clubs
    On the Border = Red Lobster
    Crazy Horse = Hardee’s
    Airport Lounge = Burger King
    Solid Gold = McDonald’s

    I think we can all agree that Art’s kind of sucks, right? Maybe a Shakey’s Pizza, at best.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Good one, DJ. And, nope.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hey Matt! We’re in DES MOINES.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Des Moines! Just over two years ago, by my watch.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see much difference between a “gentleman’s club” and the escort services that lead to prostitution.

    While a dancer or escort may not “Put Out” on the scene, it does lead to crime. Further down the street, in an area I happen to work, these “gentlemen” use to park their cars to continue buisness. I say use to because in the last 3yrs. housing & buisness developements have reduced crime. Including prostitution in this area.

    To say that this buisness will not affect this community is completely wrong. This area also has many low income housing & impoverished families. Young children I see daily, who live only 4 blocks away from this site where visitors who have no stake in the community will patronize. Young girls who are easily enticed. I say build it in your own backyard if there is no problem with it.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Walker’s Point is one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in the city. While many find it convenient to characterize the area as an “entertainment” district, this is a terribly myopic and inaccurate characterization of this diverse community. There are many reasons why I oppose Satin in my neighborhood, not least of which is the message it sends to my child. Until we live in a world where men and women share power and rights equally, I won’t buy the empowerment argument. Regardless, I am as concerned about the an over saturation of liquor licenses and “entertainment” venues in general. If the diversity of uses in the neighborhood tips to one particular use it will eventually erode the value and strength that the other diverse uses bring. For residents like myself, who call this neighborhood home, and raise our children within walking distance, places like Satin diminish our quality of life.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The argument that Walker’s Point doesn’t have enough strip club clients to warrant more clubs, is in error. Most of the clients dont live in WP…It’s a destination. In the good ole Walker’s Point days, when the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts was at 5th & National, I saw performance artist, Karen Findley take it off, cover herself in feathers and chocolate, etc…but was it “art?” And dude, in the nude in the bay window was a woman getting a body paint job.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “Some are working their way through school or raising a child…” Is that what they told you, Patti? More likely they’re working on putting together enough money to keep their heroin/ crystal meth jones fed. This is not a matter of pretty girls and horny guys having a little harmless fun; these are really messed up women slowly feeding themselves to the beasts.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I’m not a frequenter of strip clubs, but I do think the point about Silk going for a local monopoly is worth noting, and should be resisted.

    I also think that if a woman thinks she’s “empowered” because she makes money showing off her boobies, that’s a weird sort of empowerment – and I strongly suspect the men in the clubs aren’t much interested in her empowerment. Stripping certainly doesn’t empower the women who aren’t working in the strip clubs, or the women whose physiques prevent them from working in strip clubs even if they wanted to.

    It’s a pretty pathetic comment on our social priorities if the best job some women can find is stripping, if the only way our society values them is as one in an endlessly interchangeable set of tits and ass. Or maybe I’m wrong, and the guy who’s initially wowed by Cherie’s fantastic ass is thereby intrigued by her ideas about Schopenhauer.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Some years ago I was friends with a group of comedians and we all know that they traditionally often open for strip acts, so I spent a lot of time in those places seeing far more drugged-out states and helplessness than I could have known existed, as women and girls vied to get money from men who often amazingly didn’t feel used by the high prices of drinks and other “services.” Strip clubs aren’t inspirational libertine freedom lounges (spend a few hours at Arts Performing Center and decide for yourself), and why do we need them in Walker’s Point? What next, Brady Street? Women can work at any profession that they want, but these places tend to create the kind of atmosphere that usually makes the worker feel that they don’t want to be there, and ergo they take their minds elsewhere (one would hope for spiritual transcendence, as in India, but no, to my viewing it’s been quite down the ladder in these “joints,” with the aid of a more than a few Mother’s Little Helpers.) I particularly remember one hazed-out lass who tried to ask me to “help” her – appealing to me as a woman – and the next moment would have slugged me in the face if I hadn’t ducked). I also remember a part-time stripper and escort who spent time at her other job in the emergency surgery unit of a hospital, and was quite literate (wanted to borrow my book on Frida Kahlo), but had so much pent-up anger that she smashed her boyfriend’s front car windshield with a crow-bar for arriving late to a date! As to male strippers, waiting in the darkened part of Papagayos one evening for Alternative Music Night and having been let in a bit early – right after the male enmasse circle strip acts ended – a drunken stripper pulled down his G-string and tried to put his “package” in my hands, trying to prove “something” about his self-worth – it almost goes without saying that no one can do these gigs straight for any amount of time. Experience is one thing, but all-out residency is another, and I would guess these “establishments” would procure the community more harm than good, as many others would get to experience far more than I did, even if arriving out of sheer Third Ward curiosity about the chic of seediness!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I live work and Play in Walkers Point- Many of us have worked hard to get this neighborhood to where it is. Allowing another strip club into it will send the wrong message- We want business to move in as well as families. We dont want to be the ‘strip club area’ for many reasons but a poignant one is that many folks will shun the area- choose to rent elsewhere- choose to set up shop elsewhere- choose to eat and drink elsewhere. We are diverse & vibrant- its a good thing-it doesn’t mean we are the place to try to put the next strip club – we are paying attention .

  18. Anonymous says:

    Not that it it particularly germaine, but contary to Ryan’s claim about the “cesspool of broken humanity and desperation” that he views the town as, prostitution is decidedly NOT legal in Las Vegas. Not. While prostitution IS legal in the state of Nevada, customers must leave town. LV outlawed the trade within its borders many years ago. Oh, and the overwhelming majority of LV’s residents are not employed by the gaming industry, which I assume is the real brunt of Ryan’s Vegas problem. Hundreds of employers left California for Nevada in the 80s and 90s to escape Cali’s high coprorate and business taxes, and many thousands of Californians followed to take jobs. A few blocks from the strip, LV looks like any other auto-dependent mid-sized city. Strip-malls (not THAT kind, Ryan), car washes, fast-food, and large industrial parks, where almost everybody works. I’d never live there myself, but most people who do don’t work for the casinos.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Ryan’s a female. It’s ok, honest mistake.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Legislate to Regulate!

    okay i’m done. furthermore, i love strippers, because they’re snarky, sassy, and strong-headed. If we’re going to be opposed to a sexist industry, it won’t help, usually, to try and snuff it out. Because there’s always a sex industry. And if it’s business practices are not out in the scrutinizing eyes of the public, you’ll get sexism and abuse. If it is, fun times for everyone! And money!

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