Ass, and You Shall Receive: Underground Lap-Dance Club Exposed!

nyo final c 2 Ass, and You Shall Receive: Underground Lap Dance Club Exposed!

As rallying cries go, “Artista, Erotica, Utopia!” is among the more ludicrous, especially for an underground pop-up strip club, where eager young women perform awkward erotic dance routines for a members-only crowd of well-off young gentlemen.

Yet somehow, The Observer was unaccountably galvanized by this hearty call to arms, legs and other body parts. That’s the only way to explain how we came to find ourselves, on a recent Thursday night, emerging from the bathroom of a dimly lit bilevel nightclub in the Flatiron district wearing only leopard-print boy shorts with lace trim, a matching bra and Jimmy Choo heels.

We were making our debut at the Saint Venus Theater, a discreet (O.K., sketchy) members-only organization that aims to do for go-go dancing what Fight Club did for getting beaten to a pulp. In other words, try desperately to make it cool. As with pop-up nightclubs, restaurants, clothing boutiques, dental offices, abortion clinics and cheesemongers, it moves stealthily around the city, its location known only to an elite few.

Prospective patrons, who must be over 25, are instructed to submit applications via email and to provide a few personal details “so we know you would fit in well with our events,” as the website advises. Those who make the cut are given an address at which the super-secret roving event is to take place. After paying a $40 entrance fee, customers can eat free chocolate, throw back shots of Patrón and, for $20 apiece, enjoy “the most erotic and physically transformative lap dance [they] are likely to have ever known.”

That sounded like a tall order, given that The Observer had no previous experience with professional disrobing. But S.V.T. is steadfast in its policy of employing “real girls”—dabblers and wanna-bes, basically, who see the gig more as a lark than a life’s calling. And as it turned out, we didn’t actually look that out of place amid the 40 or so half-naked 20-something females scattered about the bar area, vying for the attention of the strikingly conservative execs packing the place.

The club’s MySpace page sells the concept a bit more extravagantly, describing S.V.T. as “an unprecedented nirvana for those who have a great appreciation and respect for the charm and splendor of a sexy lady or two or thirty. And are passionate about being entertained by the wonder and awe that is the female of the species.”

S.V.T. advertises for dancers on Craigslist. “This is private in every respect,” the club’s want ad advises. “You sign no contracts or forms. There is no record that you ever worked with us.” That sounded reassuring and also harrowing. But throwing caution to the wind, we sent in a full-body picture and phone number as directed. Following 72 humiliating hours without a reply, The Observer’s cell phone rang.

On the other line was Rob, the event’s organizer. “I’m going to talk for five to six minutes,” he said. “Try not to say one word. After that, obviously you’ll have questions.”

Most of Rob’s well-rehearsed speech was devoted to distinguishing S.V.T. from traditional nudie bars, which, he alleged, are “exploitative of both men and women.” At S.V.T., Rob emphasized, customers are forbidden from proposing any contact beyond dancing. He also promised that there would be no stage dancing, private “champagne rooms” or stripping.

It all sounded perfectly harmless, actually.

Signaled by a lengthy pause that Rob was finished, The Observer posed our first question: “Who are these guys?”

“Everybody who comes in has money, and they’re spending money very freely,” Rob assured us. From his mailing list of roughly 3,300, he estimated that 100 to 140 guys show up for each event. He said that his guests are into “meeting a real girl and making a real connection.”

Turning suddenly wistful, he added, “When I was a little kid, I dreamed about getting rich and buying an island. I didn’t know what a prostitute was, but I knew that they were alone and on the street and I wanted to find a place where these two kinds of people could help each other.”

“Wow,” The Observer said, our bewilderment genuine.

Rob explained that he began connecting with “very important people” in the early aughts while helping put together events for Rolling Stone and HBO. “In 2006, I made a website and I told everybody [S.V.T.] already existed and that they were missing out. It was a really impressive pitch,” he chuckled. Since starting the business in 2009, he has overseen all aspects of the operation—from recruiting dancers to brokering deals with venues to managing security and preserving the event’s cachet, such as it is.

“Most girls make $400 to $600 a night,” he continued. “But some pull in $700 to $800 regularly.” The Observer was pleased to learn that dancers pocket whatever they make, minus an $80 contribution to the house.

“Not bad. And what would I have to wear?”

“There is no dress code,” Rob replied.

That’s a relief! we thought.

“But there are rules,” he went on. “Number one: no long dresses. Number two: no boots. Number three: no illogical or excessive body adornments such as hair gel, big jewelry or overdone makeup. I tell the girls to dress however they feel comfortable and sexy. But I would prefer that the girls wear bikinis.”

That actually sounded a little like a dress code to us. But what the hell.

“I’ll text you an address,” he said.

Two days later, The Observer showed up at the designated time and place (sorry, trade secret) and passed through an unmarked, smoky glass door on an otherwise peaceful block. Rob appeared. He was dressed in all black, a tall, fit guy with a long, gray ponytail. Without a word, he ushered us inside.

Immediately, he brought us to a willowy brunette in a black corset and sheer knee-highs.

“Mercedes will give you a tutorial,” he said, then hurried off to tend to other managerial duties.

“I’m going to talk to you for these five minutes because I have to,” Mercedes barked, “but I won’t speak to you again until you’ve been here for three weeks.”

Luckily, The Observer wasn’t there to make friends.

Mercedes warned us that Rob reserves the right to send any girl home at any time, so we shouldn’t get too wasted. We also learned that Rob alone decides who’s invited back to work each week, and that we would have to prove ourselves as a “driver of business.” Before leading us to a restroom, which doubled as a changing area, she offered a final note of caution: “Rob will be watching.”


  1. Jjfranco says:

    Funny and engaging reporting by Melanie. But here’s  my question – the ass is Rob?

  2. Guest says:

    Why does Melanie Berliet keep doing this?

  3. Jlk5000 says:

    sounds like fun

  4. Jlk5000 says:

    sounds like fun

  5. Harveynyc says:

    Wow totally disgusted with the whole idea of the mobile strip joint and reporter who lowered herself to do this lousy article. Maybe next time you can try out hooking. 

  6. Bart Ski says:

    Wow, cool. +1 to you for your courage to talk about the insides of this industry. I kinda want to dance with you now, lol. I want to see those great techniques haha. thanks for the article.

  7. Sense and Sensibility says:

    Well you’ve satisfied our curiousity, but getting off guys in exchange for money is prostitution even if you choose to call it “stripping.” $20 doesn’t really seem like a fair price for dry-humping a guy until he ejaculates in his pants. I mean, that’s what crack-addicted streetwalkers would charge and they probably wouldn’t even have to go topless. You’re probably reasonably good-looking and presumably not crack-addled, so you could make $500 an hour as a call girl, rather than having to spend all night dry-humping strangers. Not that I have any issue with prostitution; in fact I think it should be legal. But given that you are supposed to be a journalist, you might want to use an alias rather than your real name next time you choose to sell your body, even if it is in the name of investigative reporting. Prostitution is illegal, and writing an article about it doesn’t change that.

  8. Offouronlythree says:

    Clubs like this were driven under ground by that hipocrit gulliani who said it was against the quality of life even though he was banging his mistress/present wife while his wife and kids were in gracie mansion they ban places like this to protect them selves from going since they closed all
    the lapdance places rape and abuse of women is up

  9. Abc says:

    the whole description sounds sexy.. can you please inform about your next sting operation, I’ll try to be there :p

  10. Donoyako says:

    I’ve been here about a month ago. ladies are very classy, very friendly place, def A+++

  11. Glisk1 says:

    I am interested in dancing please email me your info at