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(In fact, if you are a resident of Saskatchewan, it is now officially easier to solicit birthday wishes from the premier than from an exotic dancer; the Saskatchewan government’s website offers instructions on how to “arrange greetings from Brad Wall for a birthday or anniversary.”) This new reality may not mean much in a province that doesn’t and never did offer a plethora of regulated adult entertainment.
But it means a great deal to the Codette Hotel, whose business has dried up in a matter of weeks.
(Contrary to what its name suggests, the hotel does not offer lodging, though its upstairs apartment once served as a guest room and dressing area for visiting dancers.) Its owner, a wiry man in his early 50s named Don Verstraeten, who looks a lot like Bryan Cranston of , says that for a little more than a year, the Codette Hotel “was a gong show.” Two strippers danced on its small stage every week, packing the place with locals and out-of-towners alike; businessmen from nearby Melfort and Prince Albert.
Now the bar is more of a strip museum than a strip club.
Otherwise, stripping (which in Saskatchewan terms has always disallowed full-frontal nudity; strippers wore “pasties” or nipple tassels, and covered the bottom of their genitals) is relegated to non-licensed establishments.
And a dry strip club, one can easily imagine, is not a sustainable one.
Its tables are unoccupied and its single stripper pole is unused.
Formerly the province’s best-known strip club, tonight it is virtually empty.But, he says, the government believed “the linkage between organized crime and this particular industry” was “well-established” enough to outlaw the practice.The only nudity-friendly exception to the new legislation applies to once-a-year charity events, where stripping will be permitted in licensed venues as long as event organizers acquire a special permit and the night’s proceeds go to charity.In 2008, a Las Vegas stripper who had recently worked in Calgary penned a column in excoriating Calgarian strip-club patrons for allegedly participating in a ritual called the “loonie toss,” in which a stripper sticks a single loonie to her genitals and audience members fling their own loonies at the dancer in an attempt to knock the original off her body.It’s this type of debasing image that seems to fuel a large part of the animosity toward stripping in Saskatchewan.In an effort to turn things around on a recent weekend, Verstraeten concocted an edited version of the bar’s usual striptease, one reminiscent of the 1983 film —a movie set in an alternate universe where the coolest strip club in town offers no stripping at all.(Instead, the dancers do a lot of complicated aerobics in leotards.) Verstraeten’s original plan was for Lexxi Lee, one of the bar’s more popular dancers, to serve drinks and perform in a bikini.“Nobody cares about bikini girls,” says Verstraeten, with weary wisdom.“They want to see a stripper.” Verstraeten, whose bar apron is adorned with his version of a teddy bear—a plush penis —feels strongly that the Wall government’s anti-stripping stance isn’t morally driven, but a cynical political move to curry favour with senior voters in the coming provincial election.Verstraeten’s bar may have zero organized-crime affiliation, but gangs like the Hells Angels in Montreal have been known to operate strip clubs.Richard Lepp, a retired Saskatoon police officer who’s been vocal on the stripping issue in Saskatchewan, said that in his time on the force (1978-2006) he believed “the majority of booking agencies in Canada handling the contracts of exotic dancers had direct ties to organized crime.” What’s more, Canadian men in general have a unique reputation for shady strip-club behaviour.