Tel Aviv's Most Famous Strip Club Closes Down Amid Legal Challenges

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Protest signs in front of Tel Aviv's Pussycat strip club, Israel, 2018.
Protest signs in front of Tel Aviv's Pussycat strip club, Israel, 2018. Credit: Moti Milrod

Tel Aviv's Pussycat strip club was shut down Saturday after the owners' lease on its central location ended. Despite legal challenges to the club's activity over alleged sexual exploitation of employees, owners have announced "the brand" would reopen in a new location.

The club operated in the central Atarim Square location for the past eight years. Haaretz reported in early July it was still open for business despite losing its license two years ago, and its management said it was now looking for a new location.

"We've already started cooking up a new location for you," owners said in a Facebook post. "Get ready for a bigger, more spectacular, dreamier and more exciting club."

The director of the Israeli Task Force against Human Trafficking and Prostitution, attorney Nitzan Kahana, welcomed the club's closure, saying "At least for now, many women that had been exploited there can breathe a sigh of relief, but before celebrating, we have to make sure it doesn't open in a new location."

A past police investigation showed that the club had some back rooms in which employees were exploited nightly as prostitutes.

A police raid on the club in 2016 found condoms, lubricants, and evidence of exploitation in its private rooms, where a session with a prostitute cost 400 shekels ($112). One quarter of this payment went to club owners. Following the raid, the task force submitted its first petition, asking for the club’s business permit to be revoked.

The Tel Aviv municipality revoked the club’s license in March 2017 – but not for prostitution ostensibly occurring on its premises, but for the illegal construction of the private rooms. These were subsequently demolished. The task force said that it withdrew its petition with the understanding that revoking the club’s license would lead to its closure.

In July 2017, the club received a temporary operating permit for three months. The police conducted further investigations showing the place continued to function as a brothel. The police recommended not granting the club’s request to extend its license. The municipality accepted this decision and the permit was not renewed. No punitive measures have been imposed on the club for operating without a license.

The Supreme Court, is to hear in 2020 the club’s owners petition against the permit cancelation, which the Tel Aviv District Court has rejected. Criminal proceedings against the owners over what was discovered in the 2016 raid were halted due to lack of sufficient evidence, as the police could not prove the club owners knew what was going on in the back rooms.