Don’t blame the nightclubs, blame lunatics on the streets
Hanging upside down at the top of a pole, wearing nothing but a black G-string, the skinny, brunette dancer has no problem attracting the attention of everyone in the venue.
With eight inch heels she then twirls down the pole – still upside down – to flip and finish with the splits at the bottom.
Looking around, there is not one person in sight who appears to be over-intoxicated, no one throwing punches and no one who appears to be off their face on drugs either.
Security stands watch in every corner of the room, just in case one of the patrons gets over excited and tries to touch one of the dancers, gets a little too drunk or shows any signs of becoming violent.
Centrefold Lounge is clean. Spotlessly clean. It doesn’t smell like cigarette smoke or stale beer. In fact, it is nothing like the strip clubs that are slandered in the media.
Emma* worked as a dancer and house mum at Centrefold Lounge for three years. Now working behind the bar at Men’s Gallery, she said both venues “are anal-retentive” when it comes to running their business by the books.
“Our managers and owners have always been someone we can go to if we are having a problem, and they are very diplomatic when it comes to solving these problems,” she said.
“I’ve always felt listened to, and they are some of the best bosses I have ever had,” she said.
Sharnee Sullivan, from the Centerfold Lounge and Men’s Gallery head management team said, “We really genuinely care about our dancers and they are treated with respect and consideration. We create an environment where they feel happy, safe and proud to dance on stage.”
I myself am a nineteen year-old girl, and I do not feel the slightest bit threatened by being alone inside the venues. However out on the street, it is an entirely different situation all together.
Despite this, Melbourne’s sexually explicit entertainment industry has become the permanent face of blame for violence and anti social behavior, particularly those venues located on King Street.
It is frustrating that owners of these venues are copping the blame for violence that is occurring outside the walls of their venues, which they do not have the power to control.
This doesn’t just occur in Melbourne either – it is a stigma that extends to central locations where nightclubs and strip clubs exist all over Australia and the world.
Channel Nine’s Underbelly: The Golden Mile proved the extent to which these areas have always been slandered to the public as places of violence and misconduct. Sydney’s infamous King’s Cross receives the same amount of media attention as Melbourne’s King Street, and Adelaide’s Hindley Street.
What is common amongst the three is the unusual focus on the venues rather than the individuals who are causing the problem. The Australian Government needs to focus on funding a project that combats violence rather than use all their resources on ensuring there is a negative image surrounding such locations.
Peter Iwaniuk, owner of both Centrefold Lounge and Men’s Gallery on King Street, said “The government has put enormous efforts and funding into the concept of blaming venues and alcohol for individuals behavior, most of whom are mentally unstable.”
The Victoria Police recorded crime statistics say that from 2009 to 2010, 1,626 assault charges occurred on licensed premises, compared to 2,195 in the retail industry and 14,406 in residential areas.
Assault crimes recorded on licensed premises had therefore increased by 0.1 per cent, compared to a 9.2 per cent increase in residential areas and a 0.7 decrease in retail.
The New South Wales recorded crime statistics also show significant decreases in assault statistics from 2006 to 2009.
David Butten from the Nightclub Owners forum said that “Less than two percent of all violent incidents reported to police occur in or around licensed premises, so 98 per cent of them are occurring elsewhere.
“Anything of a violent nature rarely occurs inside the venues because of the high levels of security,” he said.
Instead, what it really comes down to is the number of people on the streets, and how well they are controlled. Or in most cases, from what I have noticed, not controlled at all.
“As a nightclub industry, we have maintained for many years that there needs to be a very strong police presence, both in the venues and on the streets outside,” said Mr Butten.
The termination of Showgirls Bar 20’s liquor license this month has shone light on how the government plans to place the blame when it comes to violence and intoxication.
Not on themselves, of course.
“The case was centered on violence that occurred over some years and somehow it was concluded that it was the fault of the venue and the consumption of alcohol rather than the individuals concerned,” said Mr Iwaniuk.
Taking away facilities that service our community and tourism will not solve any problems. It is instead adding to the problem because you are taking away a service that is in high demand and of high need.
And let’s face it. Closing down the regimented and surveillant pre-existing venues will only signal the opening of illegal and dodgy copycats. I assume that the government doesn’t want to encourage illegal prostitution and drug trafficking, which will become a byproduct of denying the public access to already established strip clubs.
The Nightclub Owners Forum has also argued that the Melbourne City Council should be taking greater measures to prevent violence, such as hiring its own security patrols.
“Funding from the council for security is essential, as the police cannot continue to service both the community and tourist’s needs,” said Mr Iwaniuk.
In fact, in a series of research and advocacy papers, the Nightclub Owners Forum have come up with more pro-active solutions to combat street violence than the government and police force put together.
“The policing needs to work in conjunction with the venues, not against them,” said Mr Butten.
Yes. They do, and doing this would be the best initiative taken by the government to prevent violence since it all began.
In addition to a more visible police force, Butten and Iwaniuk have pleaded for better public transport systems that operate throughout the night and increases in amenities such as public toilets.
The truth is the media will always sensationalise events and venues that carry with them the stigma of danger. The government will not achieve anything from closing down the venues, only increase the amount of street violence due to angry patrons having no where to go.
Showgirls Bar 20 is currently in the process of appealing its 18 month ban. Let’s hope the government decides to focus on the real problem – the violent individuals – rather than our historic venues.
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