Does Milwaukee need another “gentleman’s club”?
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
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.
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
Where to start?
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?
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.