NYC strippers are striking to protest scantily clad 'startenders' with huge social media followings - here's a look inside the battle

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bartender aces Aces New York A bartender pours a drink at Aces New York.

  • New York strippers are organizing a strike to protest discrimination in the industry. 
  • One issue: a new wave of bartenders - also known as "startenders" or bottle girls - have started taking away tips, sometimes even snatching money off the stage. 
  • Startenders have risen to prominence in the last few years with the rise of Instagram, where they command huge followings. 


New York City strippers are speaking out against what they say is unfair treatment at the hands of club promoters and managers. 

With the rise of "bottle girl" bartenders in the city, dancers say they're dealing with unfair treatment, including insufficient pay and racial discrimination, the Washington Post reported . According to strippers, bottle girls - who often are just as scantily clad as strippers - are given preferential treatment and hurt strippers' profits, sometimes literally taking dancers' cash off of tables. 

About a week ago, strippers organized under the hashtag #NYCStripperStrike to shine a light on these issues. 

Here's how bottle girls rose to prominence in recent years - and how they play a role in the recent strike. 

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"Forget about it being a strip club," Panama said. "We're still being discriminated against as black women in the workplace in 2017."

Source: Broadly

"We want [bartenders] to do their job and we do our job and the promoters do their job and the club owners do their job. Let's set some rules and regulations down for everyone," Panama told Broadly.

Source: Broadly

Strike organizers have been quick to emphasize that they aren't trying to demonize startenders – they're trying to improve the lives of women working as strippers and take on club promoters and managers.


"Personally I feel they should drop both titles 'Strippers and Bartenders' because it's all the same s--- now," DJ Kay Slay said in an Instagram post, emphasizing that racism remains a major issue in the industry.

"The bartenders are the new things right now ... They don't even hire black bartenders in New York City strip clubs, which is sad," rapper and former stripper Cardi B said in a recent interview.

Source: BET

As the strippers' strike has gotten more press, some celebrities have started to speak out on the topic.


She and others argue that the rise of bartenders has furthered fed into issues of racism in clubs. The strike organizers argue that strippers are more likely to be black or dark-skinned, while bartenders are more likely to be white.


Gizelle has been one of the ring leaders in the stripper strike, especially on social media.


"Bartenders tell customers not to tip us," dancer Gizelle Marie told the Washington Post. "They block us from the customers while we dance or they are sweeping our money off the stage."

Source: The Washington Post

A New York City stripper who goes by the name Panama professionally says that strippers' pay has plummeted since the rise of bottle girls, dropping from thousands of dollars a night to roughly $400.

Source: The Washington Post

Strippers pay a "house fee," typically at least $50, to preform at the club. Bartenders don't pay fees, but they also rely on tips.

 Source: The Washington Post

However, strippers say that increasingly scantily-clad bottle girls are also dancing, basically fulfilling the same role as strippers — to the other workers' disadvantage.

At a club like Aces, dancers will strip on the stage while bartenders will serve drinks at the bar.

In theory, the main difference between the two is that strippers dance while bartenders serve drinks.


Often, clubs will have the startenders dress in matching, skimpy outfits and promote their appearances on social media.

Many of these bottle girls have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. And, some of these followers will show up to clubs just to see the bartenders in person.


While strippers have been club mainstays for decades, about five years ago, club owners began hiring attractive women with sizable social media followings to serve as bartenders.

Source: The Washington Post

Clubs began to hire startenders as Instagram became more popular.


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