Cheshire West and Chester Council recently stripped Chester’s Platinum Lounge of its sex establishment licence after opponents argued the surrounding neighbourhood had become more residential.
But a High Court judge has granted an ‘interim release’ allowing the club to operate again until he deems whether or not the owners can challenge the decision during a High Court Judicial Review this November.
Here, the club’s dancers speak out ahead of a possible legal battle over the future of their workplace
Dancer Emma-Louise Phillips, aged 31
As the longest serving dancer at the club, many of my fellow dancers approached me, concerned that, through all the press attention given during the attempted renewal of the clubs’ licence and subsequent appeal process, none of the dancers’ voices have been heard.
Thinking it was time we all had our say I asked them to write a short paragraph about what The Platinum Lounge and their job as self-employed people means to them personally. It is every person’s right to choose whether they visit the club or not but we feel hurt that some may judge us without ever having met us. Those who unknowingly meet us outside of work find us to be normal, hard working and educated people, each with our own stories, ambitions and goals.
We feel sure that those who have never experienced what we do in our work environment would form a totally different opinion if they had first hand knowledge.
We question whether or not the change in the law regulating this type of work has affected how we are perceived? To clear up any concern for those who may not fully understand the changes – the Government changed the name of the law; we continue to work as we always have.
For example, we still don’t have any physical contact with customers, we continue to maintain our decency – even during dances, we still arrive at work alone, are supervised all night and leave at the end – alone and we always stay behind two doors closed from the street so that those who shouldn’t see us can’t. I certainly wear more clothes, on the whole, when I’m at work than I ever do swimming in a public pool or on a beach holiday!
Laura, aged 32
It was 10 years ago and I was working as a barmaid in a club in Liverpool to earn some pocket money when I had a conversation with one of the dancers.
I was really nervous about it at first and didn’t want to work in my hometown so went to Blackpool. I very soon realised how much I enjoyed the work and as a single mother the money enabled me to give my daughter the things I never had as a young girl.
One such benefit was being able to pay for her to go to Acting Academy with Ricky Tomlinson as her mentor. When I’m at work it is very important to feel as though I fit in and this is a very rare attribute that the Chester club has. I have had some terrible things happen in other venues I have worked.On one occasion I had all my belongings stolen, another time they were just wilfully damaged and once I was attacked on the way back to my car, this is something that could never happen at the Platinum Lounge because they always ensure we have a chaperone if we want one.
Lilly, aged 20
I started working as a dancer at the platinum lounge by accident at the age of 19. I had come to the club with my friend who was on her induction and training. I realised that this could be the ideal job for me and auditioned straight away. I was initially worried about a large operation scar on my chest and how people would view this.
I very soon realised how quickly the job built my confidence and I was able to wear bikini tops for the first time in my life.
Being self-employed has given me the freedom and flexibility to be able to enjoy my life and have much greater opportunities. New to the industry, I am starting to save money for my own beauty salon – I’ve already completed three years City & Guilds training which would be for nothing if I couldn’t fund the start-up on a new business. This year I was able, for the first time, to travel to work in Spain as a dancer.
The work over there is very different and has few regulations. It is very explicit and I found myself unable to perform to this level along with so many foreign girls whom I found intimidating. I am so glad to be back in the UK working in such a safe and friendly environment as the Platinum Lounge.
Bethany, aged 27
I’ve been a dancer for almost seven years, I first began dancing in Wrexham but the venue I worked in was not a financial success for the operators.
The Wrexham club seemed quite well operated but I could instantly tell the difference when I came to the Platinum Lounge with very experienced and professional operators.
I have remained here ever since with the occasional visit to other venues but I always consider the Platinum Lounge as my ‘home’ club because of its professionalism, friendliness and earning potential.
I had a wonderful opportunity when I was young; I completed my GCSE’s early and continued in further private education. These additional training courses cost me a lot of money, something I would never have been able to afford without my part time dancing income.
I also managed to pursue one of my life goals, helping the environment by setting up my own business supplying environmentally-friendly products to local businesses as I direct result of being able to support its early stages with added income.
Maggie, aged 22
I started at the Platinum Lounge a year and a half ago. I have had a wonderful time here. It is the first job I have had where I actually look forward to going to work. I feel safe and at home as everyone is so friendly and professional.
During the short time the Platinum Lounge was closed I had to go and work in a Manchester club to enable me to pay my bills. (Those who are self employed will understand the need to carry on earning).
While I was in Manchester my travelling time to and from work went from 10 minutes in total – up to three hours. I ended up getting home from work, exhausted, at 9am.
I was exposed to many risks both on my journey each way to work and in the Manchester venue: There was little or no supervision; I was given no induction or training; drugs were being handed about the club in full view – something I have never experienced in my life before!
Dancing has improved my confidence, self esteem and most importantly to me, my communication skills. The income I gain from being self-employed has given me a much more comfortable and ‘free’ lifestyle. A new ‘me’ has been created where I make sure I stay fit – exercising, eating properly and sleeping enough – something I was never able to do before.
Emma, aged 21
I first started dancing at the age of 19, in Manchester along with a friend. I have now been dancing for two years. I stayed there for four months but never really felt comfortable because it didn’t feel well run or safe.
The girls were a very different type of person than I was used to associating with. When I came to work at the Platinum Lounge I had no idea what to expect but part way through my first night I realised how comfortable I felt and could see how well run the business was.
I felt safe and have made friends for life, socialising with many of my fellow dancers outside of work. Since working here I would never want to lower my standards to work anywhere else.
I really enjoy the glamorous life style that being self-employed enables. Being self employed as a dancer has changed my life and allowed me to achieve many of my goals – travelling to Australia for four months, paying for my training courses which enabled me to set up another business which I would never have been able to do.
Although I have never been the shyest person, I do now feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin. The skills I have learnt here are definitely transferable to other jobs and I hope to continue learning. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Platinum Lounge as a customer or, to work here as a dancer – it has changed my life forever.
Jasmine, aged 32
I began dancing when I was in a lot of debt 9 years ago at a club in Liverpool. At that time it was a means to an end and the only way I could see my skills and attributes being of positive use.
I very soon realised that I loved the job, that it had given me so much confidence and was a career I wanted to continue to pursue. I had very quickly paid off my mortgage but still continue to work because of the freedom and empowerment I feel.
The life improvements I feel I have made also help me in my daytime job in sales.
Now nine years into dancing, I have spent the last year at the Platinum Lounge.
When I compare my experiences in the two clubs I never want to go back to Liverpool where the girls lie and rip-off customers. Everybody seems so fake in Liverpool when compared to Chester. I am so proud of myself that I have managed to build a good life for myself, invested for my future and not wasted my life away like so many do.
I began dancing nearly four years ago at the age of 18. It was a challenge to myself; to tackle something new in my life and build my confidence. I wasn’t really interested in the money but it was more of a hobby – I was occupied during the day at college studying dance (of all genres) and musical theatre.
I very soon discovered that being self-employed as a dancer was a very liberating and ‘freeing’ experience. I was able to combine my two lifestyles and, as an added bonus, didn’t leave college saddled with mountains of debt, as did lots of my fellow students.
I have worked for short periods in other clubs – experiences I can only describe of as “horrible, unclean, unsafe and intimidating”. Drugs were freely available, my fellow dancers and most of the customers were people I felt uncomfortable associating with. At the platinum lounge I have met some of my best friends and feel really safe and comfortable.
I now also operate as a pole fitness/dancing instructor helping other women (and men) feel great about themselves. I often discuss all the details of my nighttime job with my pole fitness students and have never once been judged by any of them.
They all think it’s great and some have been to the Platinum Lounge to see it working in real life.
Ashley, aged 23
I have worked at the Platinum Lounge for almost two years now and was extremely saddened at the possibility that it may close.
Working at the Platinum Lounge enabled me to support myself and live a comfortable lifestyle during my final year at university when many of my peers were struggling to make ends meet and has been my source of income since graduating and looking to start my career. Since my first audition at Platinum I have felt welcomed as though I am part of a family – I am sure that if I had chosen to start working at another club, I would not have continued dancing.
Dancing at the Platinum Lounge has not only provided me with an income, but has improved my body image and the friends that I have met here and the many positive experiences I have had have helped to mould me into the outgoing, confident and mature young lady that I am today.
At Platinum Lounge, I feel like I fit in – I can be myself and don’t feel as if I’m in competition with the other girls – often the case in other clubs. I believe that it is a place where everyone is valued and where girls can come not only to earn money but to feel confident and have a really positive working experience.