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Underground strip club operates out of Bushwick apartment

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An underground strip club run by dancers themselves operates out of a Bushwick apartment. 

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)


Friday, September 23, 2016, 4:01 AM

They’ve got that “girl next door” look, though they try not to wake the neighbors.

They are a group of strippers who have found a place of their own to continue their work without the oversight of their bosses, transforming a woman’s Brooklyn apartment into an underground club where exotic dancers are worshipped as “goddesses.”

The dancers also invite a select group of customers, who during two recent weekend visits by the Daily News gained entry to the two-level Bushwick home with a portable pole, bouncer, bar and canopy-covered couches for lap dances for $ 40.

One thing those invited will not find is a male manager behind the scenes, slapping dancers on the behind with cheers to earn him more money.

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The proprietress, a 28-year-old stripper originally from Colorado, prides herself on creating a space that inverts the normal strip club dynamic and puts women in control of their own sexuality rather than working for men.

“I don’t know of other parties like this run by women,” she told the News of the weekly event, which runs from around 4 a.m. until 9 a.m. or later on either Friday or Saturday.

Dancers at her dimly lit dwelling do not have to pay a fee to dance as they would at some other clubs, nor are they subject to rules against certain body types or black women wearing their natural hair.

Attendees sit on rows of pillows while watching performers on a mobile stripper pole.

Attendees sit on rows of pillows while watching performers on a mobile stripper pole.

(Obtained by New York Daily News)

Instead, the woman who runs it, who has asked to go by the fake name of Margaritte because of possible legal concerns, lets them keep almost all the money they make from dollar tips and lap dances, where prices vary from industry-standard $ 20 upward.

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The situation is not a windfall for the house, which invested in the $ 800 pole and has bought a small stockpile of sheer curtains since it began around two years ago.

However, the strippers facing less competition than at their clubs — have a high ceiling for earnings when their stiletto twirls attract a well-heeled customer who can pay for private dances by the hour rather than by the song.

End of night totals have reached more than $ 2,000 for the most popular dancers, who are often kind enough to give some back to the establishment.

Margaritte says this past summer’s heat thinned crowds to mostly regulars, though more than 25 men came through and crashed on mood-lit pillows against the wall during a recent two-hour visit by The News.

Some are the select few that dancers invite back to the after-hours after meeting at a traditional strip club.

The Bushwick apartment has an area with couches for lap dances.

The Bushwick apartment has an area with couches for lap dances.

(Obtained by New York Daily News)

Earlier this year the establishment also recruited a drag queen, who has asked to go by the fake name Rose, to go to parties throughout Brooklyn promoting to potential customers.

Some who arrive at the home end up leaving quickly after realizing that it is not in fact a normal after-hours, though Rose has noticed a phenomenon where one or two men from large groups who leave come back two to three hours later and spend the rest of the night.

The preferred types are those not stingy with money as their night runs into the early morning hours, “experienced partiers” who can appreciate the peculiarities of the stripper-run club in their trophy case of nightlife experiences.

Though its pro-woman “goddess party” premise is unique, the club is only one part of the economy of exposing oneself in the 21st century.

The same women who promote their stripping sessions and burlesque shows to thousands of fawning followers on social media mix their fame with the obscurity of undisclosed locations and anonymous quotes in newspaper articles.

Audrey Allen, a 24-year-old Queens native and former stripper who has more than 10,000 Instagram followers, said that the Bushwick club is probably one of the safer options for off-the-grid work.

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Dancers do not have to share the money they make with the house or a male manager.

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

Allen has moved out of the exotic dancing game and now splits her time between New York and Los Angeles while supporting herself with modeling, burlesque work and Go-go dancing.

However, during her time as a stripper she was invited to secret sex parties and “lap dance parties,” which have similarities to the Bushwick after hours except they cater to suits in places such as the Financial District.

They are also generally run by men, whom Allen characterizes as “those pretend hot shots that seem kind of power hungry” and justify the profits they make off of women because they can connect them to wealthy customers.

Lap dance parties are also more focused on giving their clientele many women to choose from, with dozens of dancers competing for the attention of a smaller group of generally older professionals and some making very little money.

The bleary-eyed Brooklynites rolling into the Bushwick apartment during the wee hours of a recent Saturday morning were a diverse group of races and ages, though they skew a little Millennial.

They make small talk with each other over cigarettes and steal glances as the dancers get ready, some changing from street clothes to harnesses.

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The “goddess party” is decorated with candles and mini-altars.

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

House party vibes and $ 4 beers ease the performers into contact with patrons as the night continues, which Margaritte says help “the white collar guys who are a little cowed by the regular strip club atmosphere.”

The casualness may make it easier for the dancers to convince customers to trade money for a few moments of fake intimacy.

Those connected to the party also hope that putting women in more control will generally help destigmatize “sex work,” words that are often associated with women who have been exploited, victimized and trafficked.

Margaritte uses the term to encompass a broad range of jobs focusing on selling sexuality, including stripping.

“There’s this idea that people who work at this job aren’t good at other things or aren’t capable of doing this on their own,” she said. “And this party shows that they can.”

A school of thought would also say that despite its intentions, the club is still objectifying women as something to be bought.

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The party runs on certain weekend nights from around 4 a.m. until around 9 a.m.

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

The club founder, who identifies as a feminist and supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, says that the lack of structure in sex work can be freeing under a capitalist system where “nobody is really valued as they should be.”

Its particular principles are what led the Bushwick apartment to fend off offers of financing from would-be investors offering to turn the home into something more professional.

A man said that he could provide added security and funds to the party, though stipulations included charging women a fee to work, introducing illegal gambling or bringing in a pre-existing “lap dance party” where patrons can purchase oral sex.

During recent visits the Daily News did not see any evidence of prostitution.

Margaritte said that bringing in someone else’s security also seemed dangerous and added, “They offer to give money for an air conditioner, for whatever return, but they also think that they get to f— all the girls.”

“You need to be a sex worker if you’re going to be running sex workers. You cannot tell someone to use their body that way unless you’re willing to do it yourself,” Rose says.

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The founder says that she eventually wants to have the space to hold other events for sex workers.

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

The do-it-yourself apartment party does create a mild security worry about aggressive patrons, though a bouncer/doorman is paid to help deal with the few who have become too disorderly or drunk.

He acts as a substitute for the ability to call police, with whom the operation is thankful that it has yet to have any problems.

Neighbors have thus far proved to not be curious enough to notice or care to question after glimpsing the inside of the apartment, though Margaritte wonders whether they wouldn’t just accept the club as part of what happens in the corners of New York City nightlife.

She also insists that she was the right person to dance across the lines of legality and stand out from the system of traditional clubs, which she calls terrible.

“I’m a lot more reckless than a lot of other people can be. I have all of the white privilege. I have a safety net. I have access to lawyers if I should need them,” she said.

The underground entrepreneur hopes to eventually expand the space to include other events that focus on destigmatizing sex workers, such as showcasing their art.

“The standard business model for a strip club is outmoded,” she said. “You have to do something different than what’s already being done to survive.”

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