The adult entertainment industry has always been under scrutiny, most of the time because of myths and misconceptions about what it is that strippers are supposed to do or not do. Strip clubs are only part of a multi-billion dollar sex industry which includes escorts, streetwalkers, brothels, pornography. The industry basically has three main areas stripping, prostitution and pornography. The lines that celebrate one area from another can sometimes be blurry especially because transitioning from one area to another. For the longest time, strippers have been misunderstood and misclassified. They often find themselves having to defend what they do as it not being anything like prostitution. There is a definite difference between the two and different laws apply. In most cases, the difference between stripping and prostitution is that one is legal and the other is not so legal.
In Australia, legislation around sex work or prostitution and stripping is a state responsibility. The laws are not the same from state to state and territory. Victoria was the first state to legalize brothels in 1984 and since 1994, the Prostitution Control act was passed. According to legislation, brothels and by extension prostitutions working from brothels came under the purview of the Consumer Affairs Victoria. Streetwalkers remained illegal. According to the Prostitution laws, soliciting and paying money for sex outside a legally licensed brothel is a chargeable offense. Laws of engagement in strip clubs are different. There is no touching allowed and most importantly, no simulations of sex. If that does happen, the strip club itself can get into serious problems.
There are clubs and performers that like to push the boundaries and engage in some questionable behavior however, one would need to be very careful with the vigilant Sex Industry Co-ordination units that make sure that adult entertainment venues have the required licenses and there is no illegal activity that happens. Just recently, a famous Lonsdale Street club, Mens Gallery was raided and found to be offering ‘extra special’ services that aren’t legal in a strip club. Officers of the Sex Industry Co-ordination unit found that the strippers working in the club were simulated masturbation in from of patrons. There was more of that than there was actual dancing.
This club has been around for over three decades and has been owned by Peter Iwaniuk. He owns another popular gentlemens club and, Centerfold Lounge which is also facing penalties supplying liquor in breach of its license conditions. The state wants the strip club to be declared as a brothel but this will mean that Men’s Gallery may be banned from serving alcohol on its premises.
There are people who are of the view that Iwaniuk is just a victim of politics and pushy real estate developers. He spent a decade frustrating the efforts of one prominent developer, Lorenzo Grollo who has been trying to “gentrify the King’s Street precinct and rid it of its seedy clubs. Of course, the City Council welcomed Grollo’s plans and would support him to get rid of the “unsavoury” adult entertainment clubs that are in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. Iwaniuk already sold the Inflation Club in 2018 to Mr. Grollo and his property development consortium.
Having said all that, one can understand why some people would believe that the latest closure of Mens Gallery isn’t just a ploy to twist the club’s owner to actually sell to make way for more student apartment developments. As Michael T from bar 20 said “People like the Grollos keep saying that strip clubs are outdated but we’re going nowhere. Every big city has an adult entertainment precinct and Melbourne is no exception. We’ve seen what big development has done to entertainment in Sydney – it’s become a joke”