There has been much speculation in recent years that night life in the Okanagan Valley is changing, with the closure of night clubs and the increase in pub and restaurants.
Strip clubs do not seem to be exempt from this trend either, with only a few remaining in the valley compared to the dozen that were operating over a decade ago.
According to city staff from Vernon, Salmon Arm and Penticton, legislation regarding strip club operations have not changed within the cities, meaning it is just as easy for these businesses to operate today as was the case when the industry was booming.
Some regulations these establishments need to abide by, according to the Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB), include posting a sign at the entrance notifying patrons that the business offers adult entertainment, performances are to be confined to a stage or other approved areas and exotic dancers cannot hold any other position in the establishment while working in their role as an entertainer.
“We opened (Pirate’s Cove Beach House) the second week in July (2018) and we were busy all through the summer,” said establishment co-owner Verna Callihoo. “It was packed in here with both floors. We have a full bar upstairs with a patio, plus our main floor patio so we were full all the time.”
Callihoo said she and her husband purchased the bar, located at 3502 Skaha Lake Rd., in June 2018 but they did not consider shifting operations to a strip club until months later. The decision was related to the success they saw when the bar hosted an anniversary celebration for Slack Alice’s establishment.
“In November and January it was pretty slow. We held events like New Year’s which was busy, but otherwise it was slow. In February, it was the seven year anniversary of Slack Alice’s burning down so that’s when we decided to do an ‘In Memory of Slack Alice’s’,” said Callihoo. “So we got permission to use their logo and we made T-shirts and hats and sold them as a fundraiser. Then we got the Slack Alice’s original stripper pole, which was a big hit with everyone. It was an attraction because everyone wanted their picture with it. And sales that night were phenomenal.”
Callihoo said her husband had reached out to the city to ensure they could begin offering exotic dancers as entertainment at the establishment. According to staff with the city, Pirate’s Cove is located within a zone that allows that type of entertainment and the establishment is governed by their primary liquor licence regulations when it comes to exotic dancers.
“The people of Penticton, when we had that memorial night, were just like ‘Oh my god, you guys are so awesome. Thank you so much for bringing this back.’ And they said this is what Penticton needs because everyone misses Slack’s,” said Callihoo. “Everyone that comes through my doors is happy that we have exotic entertainment.”
Callihoo couldn’t speak to why there are fewer strip clubs operating in the valley these days, but noted that her establishment does not look like the stereotypical venue most people picture. The interior is bright, well lit and clean, instead of dim and dingy.
She is unsure if the business will continue to operate as a strip club year round or if they will choose to offer exotic dancers during the winters only to make it through the slow season. But Callihoo and her husband aren’t the only two reigniting the industry, with Kelowna’s Cheetah’s Show Lounge opening its doors again after a four-year hiatus.
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