Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Working With Professionals

A couple of weeks before the new "gentleman's club" (in this instance, a strip club ... not the kind of gentleman's club I worked in that I've already written about) opened around the corner from our hotel, a meeting was called for all of the front-house food and beverage employees. It was explained to us that "the girls" who worked in the club, as well as the managers and bouncers, would be staying at the hotel and that we should make every effort to assure they felt comfortable and respected. This was apparently a huge chunk of revenue for the hotel they didn't want to lose, so they were taking no chances. As soon as "the girls" began arriving, I could see the reason for the extra caution.

Most of the contact I had with the women who worked in the new club was to nod a brief, "Hello" to them as they left or arrived, except for the ones who were leaving and arriving several times within the late evening, and then I just pretended not to see them. They were always escorted by a beefy male member of the club (bouncers, I'm guessing) and they would usually be gone for 60 to 90 minutes, two or three times a night. Sometimes they sat with the cops - and there were suddenly a lot more of them than the two who usually worked our area. They'd talk for a while at a table, or every once in a while they'd come in with one or two of the boys in blue who had taken them for "a ride in the squad car". It wasn't uncommon to have a customer ask,

"Are they arresting those prostitutes?"

"No, sir. The ladies are guests of the hotel."

"Wow. They sure look like prostitutes."

There was a definite shift in attitude on the part of hotel security, and of course, all of us working in the bar. Time was, we would keep a keen watch for anyone doing business in the lobby. Suddenly it became difficult to tell if the suspected entrepreneur was one of our neighbor's employees, or the freelance variety we used to discourage.

I don't remember the end of the hotel's association with the club. I think it was just a one or two month contract deal until the employees of the new business had time to re-locate. I never went inside the place, but I heard it was pretty swanky and even served decent steaks. The fact that it was next door did cut into some of the money I used to make for calling cabs to take guests to one of the other strip clubs, or making arrangements with another club's limousine service, and it's never great for bar business to have the cops popping in and out all night long.

What I recall most from that time was the feeling of subterfuge. Even though I'd been making arrangements for guys to head off to strip clubs for years (I had all of their phone numbers and addresses memorized), and I'd seen plenty of 'just-walk-on-by-wait-on-the-corner' assignations, this situation had money, power and methodology behind it. It seemed like my job had taken on the aspect of pretending to be a bartender in a hotel, while I was really operating a front for another kind of business entirely. Truth be told, that is probably what I'd been doing all along, but it's a different game when your eyes are open to it.

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