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Stripping the north inner city of its dignity? The campaign against Stringfellows gathers momentum
"For jaysus' sake just promise us that Stringfellow himself wont take his clothes off" says Wag.
A brief interview with Maria MhicMheanmain, who is involved in the campaign against the opening on Parnell Street in Dublin of a new lapdancing club, owned by English businessman Peter Stringfellow.
I met up with Maria MhicMheanmain in a small redbrick terraced house in the shadow of Croke Park in Summerhill. She's involved in the campaign against the opening of a new strip club and "adult entertainment" venue on Parnell Street, run by English businessman Peter Stringfellow. The club has already began to advertise in the Irish media and recruitment websites for positions (no pun intended) in the club.
The campaign against Stringfellows was started by a woman called Vera Brady, who lives on Parnell Street. Her family have been there for a hundred years, over several generations. Maria and Vera have known each other a long time, with connections through their families. Maria says, "We dont have a name on our group yet, its just a group of concerned residents who dont want to see this club open in this location. Vera organised Matt Talbot hall for our first public meeting, and also did extensive leaflet drops in the area in order to get local people along.
"The first I heard of the proposed strip club on Parnell Street was on TV on a Friday night, the Late Late Show, a number of weeks ago. My initial reaction was, Christ, where they're planning on building a lapdancing club is less than a minute's walk away from my old secondary school (Mount Carmel). I was aware of a lapdancing club in Galway which opens at midday, and I was enraged that the possibility existed of men queueing up to get into a club like this, while young teenage girls were in the immediate vicinity on their lunch break."
The location of the club is at the junction of Parnell Street and Kings Inn Street. As Maria points out, the area is very built up, and also residential. "Its a working class area, with lots of corporation flats and social housing. There are lots of children around, they're very much a presence on the streets. I think its highly inappropriate to open what last year Glasgow City Council labelled a sex establishment. They believe all lapdancing clubs should be licensed as sex establishments like brothels, rather than being awarded a simple drinks, dancing, or music license. I would be very worried the clientele that would be hanging around the area would be very intimidating to younger women going to school nearby."
"Peter Stringfellow has said that his club was going to "gentrify the area". When I heard this comment, I thought what an outrageously elitist, classist, downright snobbish attitude he has. Its been well documented worldwide that property values and business stature decrease in areas near strip clubs. At the end of the day I think Mr. Stringfellow is interested in one thing: money. A city centre location is prime real estate for marketers."
"I think previous evidence completely refutes his theory of gentrification. Above all else I feel like the north inner city in Dublin has constantly been a disenfranchised area. There's been the scourge of drugs, a long history of unemployment, poor housing and so on. I just dont think its right that the north inner city should have another problem like this foisted upon it - ostensibly by someone who is not even a part of the local community, a complete outsider."
"We held our meeting to mobilise public support around the immediate area, Dominick St, Dorset St, and further afield. At the moment the campaign is looking into the whole area of licensing. We dont know whether Mr. Stringfellow has actually got the go-ahead or not. Ultimately it will be a judge who makes the decision on whether to grant the license or not. Apart from that the campaign is focusing on raising greater awareness among residents. In particular we want parents to know thats its a possibility, and get them involved in the campaign. The more that know the better, people power and strength can make all the difference."
"There was a feeling of complete outrage at the public meeting we held. Around 50 people showed up to it. Every single person there was completely opposed to having a lapdancing club in the middle of the community. I dont think people would have a major problem with the bar if it was just an ordinary bar or nightclub. The area does suffer from a huge lack of facilities for children though. For example the north inner city has the largest GAA stadium in the country, but no GAA club. There's very few spaces for children to run around. That site where Shooters is now (the proposed location of the club) used to be open wasteground. There's no reason why originally the site could have been made into an open parkland. If there was any way it could be designated a youth entertainment area, rather than an adult entertainment area, I think that would be ideal."
But there are already strip clubs in Dublin, for example on Leeson Street and Dame Street, and there's been no campaign against them. Stringfellow is also saying that he just wants to bring business into that end of town, creating employment and opening up a premises that was otherwise lying dormant. Maria feels that "Dame St and Leeson St are not residential areas for the most part, not in the same way that Parnell Street is. I dont think Stringfellows will have the overall effect of bringing business into the area either. People will end up shopping elsewhere because they feel intimidated. Personally I would prefer to see Stringfellow not come to Dublin at all. I dont think its appropriate that women should be objectified in any way. I do have to admit, as the mother of a young daughter who I hope to send to the local school, that I think the location is extremely inappropriate."
There are to be further meetings held and leaflet drops in the vicinity of the proposed venue in the coming months. Maria is hopeful that the local residents efforts will be successful. Work has already begun on renovating the venue, and Stringfellows have already advertised looking for cashiers, chefs and bar workers - so it would appear that the campaign has an uphill struggle on their hands.