Many of you are either very relieved or really annoyed because Regina isn’t getting a strip club. Not yet anyway, because City Council voted down an application to open such a club at 1047 Park St last night. Apparently the vote came in 9-1 with the overwhelming majority of delegates showing up to speak against it. Who knew Regina City Council had it in them to overturn an otherwise air-tight business application after city administration had already recommended they approve it? So, why did they vote it down? A few councilors made points about the “value of human dignity” and “respect for women” but does anyone really buy that? There’s plenty of evidence to prove Regina isn’t especially interested in either of those things. Frankly, the decision feels a little patronizing. But it’s also something of a relief.
Personally, I don’t like where this club was slated to open – nothing against the neighbourhood itself, but the idea of having the only strip club in the city* located in the middle an industrial area that sees few pedestrians is very out of sight, out of mind. Of course, according to the city’s bylaws, it’s the only place where it legally could go – which is just weird. And punitive. And potentially dangerous. Relegating the women who work in this industry to a part of the city where no one can hear them scream should give everyone the creeps.
Regardless of how you feel about strip clubs, have you ever noticed that, in other cities, they’re always in denser areas? Sometimes you find them out near airports (the Landing Strip in Toronto, for example, is out near Pearson International – the entrance is is actually constructed from part of an old airplane fuselage). But most are much more centrally-located. In Montréal, they’re on Sainte-Catherine, and Rue de la Montagne. In Toronto, they’re on Yonge or Dundas. They’re easy to find, easy to hail cabs outside, and the surrounding area is always well lit. As Councillor Shawn Fraser pointed out, Regina needs to acknowledge that it has a sex industry to begin with before something like this can work well here. And, at the moment, no one wants to talk about regulation. We’ve had underaged prostitutes and massage parlours operating in this city for years, offering up a lot of very marginalized young women (and girls), and the most that is seriously discussed is how to keep them out of our neighbourhoods. The city seems to have a bizarrely hands-off approach to these businesses. Instead, they’d rather change the subject and make this about something it isn’t (Respect for women? Please.).
When Mick Jagger called this place the “city that rhymes with fun”, he was kidding. Regina doesn’t want to talk about sex at all. It gets too embarrassed. At this point, it’s clear that Regina cannot handle a strip club. But if it ever does wind up with one, why not put it where we can see it? How about that little stretch on Dewdney with all the bars (where there’s some nightlife and foot traffic already)? But that’s Regina for you: always reluctant to revisit bylaws. Oh, Regina.
* Dancers (the now-defunct alcohol-prohibited strip club housed in a Quonset hut near the heavy oil upgrader), was in that neck of the woods too. Carle Steel wrote about it back in 2008 for Prairie Dog’s Equity Report (and you should give it another read, because it’s really good). In it, Carle wrote “If (downtown) got a strip club before we got a grocery store, I think I would have to move.”
Carle moved anyway.