Three Tel Aviv Strip Clubs Close Down on Grounds That Lap Dancing Is Prostitution

Closure orders were issued to the Baby Dolls, Shendu and GoGo clubs in first major enforcement of the Prosecution's new guidelines since the Pussycat club was shut down last summer

Tel Aviv's Baby Dolls strip club closed under an administrative order, February 10, 2020.
Ilan Assayag

The police and prosecution on Monday issued administrative orders shutting down three strip clubs in Tel Aviv, following State Prosecution guidelines under which lap dancing is considered prostitution and buying it is a criminal offense.

Closure orders were issued to the Baby Dolls, Shendu and GoGo clubs. This is the first major enforcement of these guidelines since the Pussycat strip club closed last summer.

The administrative order allows for the immediate closure of the clubs for 30 days, as police investigate their activities. When the order expires, in accordance with the findings of the investigation, the police and prosecution can decide whether to ask the court to extend it. According to the Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution, there is now only one other strip club openly operating in Israel, in the north.

According to a law enforcement source, after the guidelines were issued by former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, the club owners were warned about the need to revamp their operations before being shut down. Over the past few months, there have been covert investigations of the three clubs. Late Wednesday night of last week, police raided them, issued restraining orders against the owners and questioned the women who worked there, most of whom were Eastern European nationals.

Women working at the GoGo strip club demonstrating against its closure, February 10, 2020.
Ilan Assayag

According to the source, the clubs did not have “back rooms” for women to take clients; the dancing, which included sexual contact, took place in the clubs’ main halls. A source familiar with the details said a lap dance cost 25 shekels ($7.30). The women performers were not paid salaries, but had to make do with tips. As a result, they were forced to perform as many dances as possible. “That’s the root of the exploitation,” the source said.

The prosecution said in a statement, “The action was carried out in accordance with the state prosecutor’s instruction regarding enforcement policy against violations that are affiliated with prostitution, including the act known as ‘lap dance,’ about which it was determined that under certain circumstances it is a forbidden act.”

The Pussycat club was closed in July after eight years of operation because its lease had ended. Two years before that the club had lost its business license, yet it continued to operate. Nitzan Kahana, director of the task force, welcomed the move. “This is a necessary move after years in which brave women have told of the incredible damage done to them by the exploitation at strip clubs. We are filled with hope that the authorities will continue their determined actions.”