Watch the video above: a small Saskatchewan town is the first venue to offer legal strip shows in Saskatchewan
CODETTE, Sask – Nearly a month since strip tease became legal in Saskatchewan, the profession and form of entertainment remain polarizing issues in our province.
At home on Thursday morning, Kailie Curtis, a first year student at the University of Regina, is working hard to get through the textbook lesson. She’s attempting to maintain an academic average of 75 per cent or higher with a goal of getting her PhD in genetic science. It’s a long and expensive road so Curtis is a student by day and an exotic dancer by night.
“This isn’t going to be my ultimate career obviously in the end,” Curtis said. “Being 21 and living by myself is pretty cool. Most students don’t, they either live with their parents or with room-mates.”
IN DEPTH: Watch Focus Saskatchewan Saturday, Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m. for a full report.
Curtis’ first public performance in this province was in Codette, Sask. On Jan. 1, stripping in licenced public places became legal in the province. Clothes can come off but nipples must remain covered and full frontal nudity is still prohibited.
It’s the perfect balance according to Curtis.
“It’s enough nudity to get people excited but it’s also enough to be covered up to the point where we still look kind of classy,” she explained.
When the provincial government announced sweeping changes to its liquor legislation, including strip clubs, Bryan Baraniski seized the opportunity, purchasing the old hotel and bar in Codette.
“It’s only 5 miles from Nipawin, central between Tisdale and Carrot River” said Baraniski. “The new laws changed and we thought hey, this will work right in to it if we can jump on and maybe be the first ones doing it.”
Venues don’t have to apply to the province to add strip shows to their entertainment offerings, so neither the province nor the hotel and hospitality association know if any others have opened yet, but believe the hotel in Codette is the first and only at this time.
Codette is home to about 200 people. Prince Albert is 150 kilometres to the west and it’s the nearest city to the small village.
In its second week of strip shows, Baraniski says business is good. Vehicles begin pulling in to town around 5 o’clock for the 5:30 p.m. show. The audience of about 20 people is all male aside from one female patron and three female waitresses.
Most drive in on their own, a few come on snowmobiles and a couple catch a taxi cab from Nipawin. According to Baraniski, show days bring in nearly 10 times the amount of profit when compared to a regular day, but community folk see little benefit from the extra traffic. The only other amenity in Codette is Canada Post.
Robert LeBlanc was raised in Codette, moved to Alberta years ago and just recently moved back. His house is just two doors down from the bar. LeBlanc says the vehicles and snow mobiles zipping in and out of town for the shows are a nuisance but it’s more than that.
“Things like people coming out in the street to leave and using the bathroom out front,” he said. “You look out your kitchen window and see that.”
Those concerns are echoed by some neighbours.
“I mean little kids walk by here and they go down there to get on the bus right at the bar,” said one woman disgustedly.
It’s a situation both the City of Saskatoon and the City of Regina are trying desperately to avoid. The province legalized strip-tease, all municipalities can do to control it is alter zoning bylaws.
In Saskatoon, bylaws have been revised, only allowing strip clubs to locate in industrial areas, and they must be at least 160 meters from other establishments, homes, schools, and parks.
Some have argued that banishing the activity to commercial and industrial areas in Saskatoon and Regina is not safe, suggesting the women would be better protected in areas frequented by police officers.
The exotic dancers who perform in Codette are supplied by ReginaStrippers.com – a company that still also offers entertainment for occasions like bachelor parties. Baraniski says he paid ReginaStrippers.com $1,000 to have two women come in and dance on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Nick GK is on the other end of the deal – acting as the agent who arranges the work, takes the payment and transports the women from Regina to Codette.
“It’s a tip based business,” said GK in reference to the payment structure. “That’s where they make their real money.”
Curtis, who also dances in Alberta, says there she has made upwards of $1,200 an evening and she gets a set stage price in that province as well as tips. Meanwhile her deal in Saskatchewan with ReginaStrippers.com recognizes her as a sub-contractor, meaning she’s not covered by the labour standards act. Money made comes from tips only with a 30 per cent tip-out fee.
“Here they want to know every cent you make and they keep track of it,” said Curtis “That brings our money consumption down.”
The provincial Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety in Saskatchewan confirmed there is no set minimum wage for the exotic dancers in our province unless they are employees – similar to other contract/subcontract deals.
The dancer’s make their best money through personal performances in the VIP room – but it’s those closed door encounters that Curtis says give a bad impression unnecessarily. Curtis says it’s a ‘no contact’ policy.
“In the back room you give a five minute lap dance and that’s the end of it. If they want another one you can’t even take the money from them,” she explained. “They have to put it on the table and you take it from the table cause taking it from their hands would be considered contact.”
Exotic dancers want to establish what they call a very clear line between prostitution and stripping. Curtis says she feels a lot of prejudice, specifically in Saskatchewan.
“Every stripper I know so far, they’re all in university or already have degrees,” said Curtis. “A lot of them are married and have children so I think people shouldn’t presume we live completely different altering lifestyles.”
Those in the industry hope the recently relaxed laws help peel back some of the misconceptions.