Sex club row: Nottingham lap dancers hit back at "demeaning" claims
The Post has revealed proposals to close down 'demeaning' and 'old-fashioned' sex shops and lap-dancing clubs in Nottingham. But those working at Nottingham's only lap-dancing club have hit back...
IT'S Friday night and instead of knocking back a pint in the local, I'm sitting on a sofa in the VIP area of Nottingham's only lap-dancing club.
But the girls here aren't after my money, they are after my ear.
Their place of work, Flirtz, in Friar Lane, could well be closed in a few months' time after plans to ban sex shops and lap-dancing clubs were put forward.
I immediately violate the no-touching rule by offering to shake the hands of Annabelle and Frankie as they take a seat next to me.
"This is not a sleazy and exploitative place. If it was, I wouldn't be comfortable working here," Annabelle, a 24-year-old masters student, tells me.
"In fact, when words like demeaning, degrading and objectifying are used, I actually find it quite offensive. I'm clever enough to make my own mind up about where I work and what I do.
"I don't feel shame in what I do. My 89-year-old great-grandmother knows and she asks me how it's going when I see her. She thinks it's the most empowering thing I have ever done.
"Have the people who proposed this actually been here to visit? The image that people have of places like this is pretty far from the reality – it's a place for adults, sure, but I feel safe working here."
Phil Thompson, the club's owner, says the idea behind the club is not sleaze, but somewhere people can relax.
"We look after our customers and our staff, and it's a safe place to be. We're discreet and set back from the street.
"It costs a lot of money to run somewhere like this and it brings a lot of money into the area. We will fight this; it's not right that a business that has had no objections when we renew our licence can just be shut down."
Co-owner Amanda Town adds: "Other cities have a lot more clubs like ours and they're on main streets – some people don't even know we're here. We don't give the area a bad atmosphere, we're a responsible business."
Frankie, whose day job is in local government, has been working at Flirtz for a year. She says the news of a potential ban was a shock.
The 23-year-old says: "It doesn't seem like a sensible thing to do and could do a lot of harm. Some of the people that come here drink in Nottingham, use hotels in Nottingham and eat in Nottingham as part of a stag-do. If there was nowhere like this, they would visit other cities instead and it would impact on the local economy.
"It's right that people should have their say but suggesting my place of work is demeaning or somehow morally wrong isn't fair.
"Anyway, I'll bet you'll see girls dressed in a lot less than we are wearing outside any of the big nightclubs tonight," Frankie adds, just before I let them get back to work.
And as I see the crowds outside a city centre club, it turns out she was right.
But what of the passers-by? How do they feel about the club?
John Turner, 26, is part of a five-strong group visiting Nottingham as part of a friend's stag-do and thinking of visiting Flirtz – which operates a strict 21-or-over policy – later in the evening.
He tells me: "Lap-dancing clubs are a bit of harmless fun really. So long as no one is forced into anything, I don't really see it as a problem.
"There's nothing sinister about it. I've been to a lap-dancing club before, and it's a laugh – a place to have fun and spend time with girls."
Gill Guest, 45, is waiting on Friar Lane for her bus to Long Eaton as I leave the club. I ask her if she knows what is going on just a few metres away.
"I had always wondered why there were bouncers on the gates," she says. "It's not the kind of place I would spend my Friday nights, but I won't stop walking down here in the evening now I know it exists. It's just one place – if there was a whole street of them, it would be a different story."