Saint Venus Theater

Are you sick of strip clubs that lack sophistication and taste? Do you want to go to a place where you can pay for lap dances from girls who really (no, really!) like you? Are you craving Italian? Today’s your lucky day.

It’s Thursday night at the dimly lit Financial District club Quest, and a 29-year-old male investment banker and a 22-year-old gallery girl in a short, tight sweater dress exchange flirtatious banter. Her favorite artist is Picasso. He’s always had a fondness for the Midwest, where she grew up. “You’re a good egg,” the banker says. “You’re a good egg, too,” she responds with a coy smile. They get another round, while dudes in crew-neck sweaters awkwardly linger by the bar, shelling out $18 a drink, and a group of girls dance by themselves in a circle to Rihanna’s “S&M,” some with plates of baked ziti in hand.

Fifteen minutes later, the young man finally musters the courage to ask her for a dance. “Sure,” she says. “It’s $20 a song.” He nods assent, and she grabs his hand and leads him to a back room. There, dozens of guys are seated thigh-to-thigh on three long rows of red banquettes, while nearly nude girls in their early 20s gyrate atop them, the men groping with wild abandon. Welcome to Saint Venus Theater — a roving amateur strip club that caters mainly to young finance guys looking for a less tacky, more girl-next-door stripping experience. Launched in 2009 by a man known to his employees as “Rob S.,” a mysterious character who favors a top hat and long ponytail, Saint Venus started off as a members-only, application-based strip den for a small group of Rob’s financier friends. Since then, it has grown, largely by word-of-mouth among its high-spending and attractive clientele, as a much-whispered-about alternative to the typically trashy strip club.

Whereas at a typically trashy strip club, the ladies appear to be in it solely for the cash, at Saint Venus, patrons get the sense the girls they’re financially compensating for their time actually want to be there and would stick around even if they weren’t getting paid.1 Read more »