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Who Gets the Money You Spend in a Strip Club?

Out of all the money you stuff in her garter, you’d be surprised how little she gets to keep

The world may be gradually going cashless, but there are certain economies for which cash might always be king. Few of these professions conjure images of bills flying around as much as stripping, but what actually happens to this money? Where the hell do the dancers keep all those dollar bills? Who else gets a cut? With the help of some professionals, we’re going to expose some answers.

Don’t strippers get to keep all that cash for themselves?

Nope — they usually have to pay the house directly. According to Simone, a professional dancer who writes anonymously for Womens Whork, an advocacy group for women in the industry, most clubs don’t charge dancers to perform during the day shift (starting before noon). But for nights, there’s often a flat fee of $20 to $150 for a regular day, or say, $400 for an event night. Anything beyond that, the dancer gets to keep (until it’s time to tip out, that is — more on that later).

Then there are the private rooms. Dancers can use them by the song or by the hour: They’re usually charged $5 to $7 per song by the house (while they earn $25 per song from the customer), or $100 to $300 per hour (they can charge the customer a lot more).

What about those VIP sections? Or the Champagne Room?

Now we’re talking real money! The VIP area tends to be for legit VIPs: Simone, who works in Miami, says this is the place where the likes of Meek Mill, DJ Khaled or Floyd Mayweather could get into, but a regular guy off the street? Probably not (and the real VIPs wouldn’t want him in there anyway). The VIPs, of course, spend big, and the house will often charge dancers hundreds of dollars to work in that area. The reward, though, is huge: A small group of dancers might collectively earn up to $30,000 by the end of the night that they’ll split amongst themselves.

Then there’s the Champagne Room. Simone says that, just like that Chris Rock song says, there’s honestly no sex in here — or almost none, anyway. But it is private: There’s three walls and a curtain, and as the name implies, a lot of booze. “My home club charges $850 an hour for this, but I’d normally charge about $1,000 to $1,200 because the club takes a cut of about $300,” Simone says. The club’s cut is also the bottle of champagne — Moet or something fancy, or at least a bar tab. Even if the customer isn’t drinking it, the customer is still on the hook for it. A dancer can often charge their own price for this, negotiating with the customer. “Some customers have no problem spending $2,000, some barely want to spend $500, but I wouldn’t take less than $500 if the club keeps $150,” she says.

And this is all done in cash?

Well, usually — but times are changing, even in this industry. Armand Peri, owner and founder of Hunk-O-Mania nightclubs and revue shows, says more and more people are going cashless. “Nowadays, more customers resort to Venmo and Paypal,” he tells me. Especially millennials. The dancer will just share his Venmo handle with the customer, he says, and that’s that.

But about the cash? Where do dancers keep all that money while they’re working? It’s not like they have pockets.

Male dancers are lucky: According to Peri, most guys just put it in their sock. For women, it’s more complicated. Some carry a bag around, but Simone says she’s seen too many girls get robbed of that. She says she used to tuck the cash between the shoe and her leg, until the shoe brand Pleaser came out with hidden zip pockets just for this purpose. When she fills the pocket, she’ll keep the large bills in there, and then put the rest in her locker (which dancers pay for, and is a one-time flat fee). Other dancers, she says, will keep it all in their garter.

Who else gets a cut?

As we said, dancers don’t keep it all to themselves. Just like in a restaurant, where waiters share their tips with the back of the house, the same goes for stripping. It isn’t much, though: The deejay, security, bartender and managers each get $5 to $10 from each dancer, according to Simone. Same goes for the house mom (a common backstage role that involves tasks as varied as hair and makeup, wardrobe, food procurement and amateur psychologist), but dancers also pay her for food and makeup on top of this. Simone says that in some places, the deejay even takes up to 10 percent of the dance fees. Then, of course, there are side deals: “A lot of times dancers tip out the deejay and security extra when they help them — like putting them onto a table, or putting them onstage at a certain time when there is money,” Simone says.

So do they just walk out of the club super late at night, loaded with cash?

Since that would be begging for trouble, dancers are often escorted to their car by security.

But who really ends up with all those $1 bills?

As you can imagine, some dancers leave work with a lot of George Washingtons. “I’ve definitely paid for groceries all in ones,” one former dancer (who wishes to remain anonymous) tells me. But not all dancers spend all cash in their daily lives — Simone says she uses cash, but also a debit and credit card like most everyone else. “I never pay for things in all ones, and I barely leave the club with ones because I usually pay tips out in ones,” Simone says. “Some girls do, but urban legend says it’s bad luck to leave the strip club with ones!” She says this is a pretty common superstition, at least in Florida, and it’s something that dancers tend to say to the customers, so that men at least spend it on a dancer.

And obviously they’re reporting every last $1 bill as income to the IRS … aren’t they?

Simone says that this varies. Like any tip-based industry, many dancers under-report their earnings, and since it’s an all-cash job, some strippers don’t pay taxes at all. But others actually report all their earnings since it can qualify them for, say, a mortgage, or something they need loan approval for. She breaks it down like this: “A lot of strippers are making over $100k a year, and they want to report that on their tax return so they can live in nicer neighborhoods. However, some strippers have full-time day jobs and get benefits from that, then just dance on the weekends. I doubt they report everything they make.”

In any case, dancers work only for tips. So don’t just remember to tip your waitress, as the saying goes: Remember to tip your dancer.