|Inner City Diary|
|Is 'high class' sleeze a sign of progress?|
|April 28, 2002|
|Have you heard about some of the great plans to revitalize Winnipeg’s downtown? There’s going to be a river trail, a college campus, business and leisure development as well as brand new residential units. Sounds great!
The condominiums will be beautiful. Historically significant buildings will be transformed to a mix of office space and grand residential spaces. High ceilings, huge windows and other architectural distinctives will make for some spectacular condominiums. I imagine that some high powered businessmen will have a short walk to work. That’s great for them and great for all of us.
But some of the rest of the development of the downtown gives me pause – and concern.
Less than thirty feet from the front door of one of these high class condo sites is a “high class” gentleman’s club. Translation – “strip joint.” But owners and proponents of the club insist that this is not your average peeler bar.
You can tell it’s high class because it’s called a “Gentleman’s Club.” There are no marquees advertising “strippers” or signs announcing the visit of “Bunny” and “Boom-Boom Bazoom.” No way! This is a high class joint! You can tell from the silhouettes of high class girls on the windows of the club. I’ve been told the clientele will be high class. I guess blue-collar and no-collar horniness won’t be welcome there. Only the high-class horniness of the gentry. White collars and fat wallets. That changes everything!
Remember this is thirty feet away from the condos. Women living there – wives, girlfriends, daughters – will regularly bump into guys either inspired or frustrated by their experience in high class voyeurism. They’ll probably cross paths with sex trade workers – licensed and unlicensed – marketing their services at other locations nearby.
According to one industry insider, there are dozens of illegally operating escort or massage parlours in the area. There are seven dating and escort services which have already been licensed by the city in that area. Check out their ads in the Yellow Pages. See how many businesses share the same license number, making a mockery of the license system. Call me naïve, but I’m still surprised when I watch city councilors cloak the activities of escort and massage parlours with the legitimacy of a license.
A few blocks away, we’ll see the unmistakably glum faces of victims of the 50 to 60 VLT’s required to help fund the new arena. But I shouldn’t worry for the victims. This will be a high class clientele able to afford their losses in a high class atmosphere for the machines. I’ve seen the plans for the building. I’m not an architectural purist, so it looks pretty impressive to me.
And dotted throughout the rest of downtown we’ll have high class brew pubs, dance clubs and theme bars. Here as well, the clientele will be high class. The designs of these establishments are spectacular. This is, after all, not your average seedy hotel beverage room. These folks don’t make noise outside after closing time. They don’t pee in back lanes and they certainly are too smart to drive drunk through the neighbourhood.
But I shouldn’t be so prudish. I shouldn’t be so cynical. I should be happy that some folk have given so much thought to a high-class revitalization of downtown.
Recently, I was waiting for a reporter to talk about the development of the downtown. I saw one of the clients of the high-class men’s club stumble out the door. He put on quite a show for all passersby. The stumble, the drunkenness and the profanity expressing his dissatisfaction with “unfriendly” and “unsatisfying girls” seemed anything but high class.
I went to talk with the guy, figuring maybe I could calm him down a bit. He saw me approaching and eyed me with suspicion. I had my hands in my coat pockets cause it was a bit chilly outside. As I got closer, his eyes got bigger and he looked down at my jacket. “Why are you coming after me with a gun? I know you have a gun in there.”
He shouted even louder, “Leave me alone.” I took my hands out of my pockets. Despite my reassurances that I was a harmless preacher, he kept backing away from me. When I saw he was about to step into oncoming traffic on Notre Dame, I walked the other way. Better not to aggravate him further.
It’s futile to argue about the existence of these places, but I am concerned about their concentration in the downtown.
Does the impact of concentrating gambling, drinking and sexually oriented businesses diminish with the expense of the building and the income of the clientele?
High class drunks, high class horniness, high class gamblers. Mix in a few high class condos. People tell me not to stand in the way of progress, not to discourage investment.
But I hope you’ll excuse a little doubt about the high-class recipe for the revitalization of Winnipeg’s downtown. I guess as a lower-middle-class preacher these things are a bit beyond my grasp…
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
|Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.|
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