Sex industry bosses battled each other in court this week as Calendar Girls owner Jacqui Le Prou tried to stop Wellington brothel kings the Chow brothers moving into Auckland. Brendan Manning of APNZ listened in for a rare behind-the-scenes look at the local sex industry
With her long, straight platinum blonde hair, 10cm heels, miniskirt and bronzed skin, the woman was a striking presence as she made her way to the witnesses’ chair.
“I am a professional dancer and have worked in New Zealand, Australia and the United States for approximately 10 years,” she began.
“In the United States, I have worked at full nude strip clubs where they are not permitted to sell alcohol by law and I have worked at what they refer to as ‘go-go’ bars which are topless and can serve alcohol.
“Michael and John allow far higher intoxication levels than I have seen in any other premises in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.”
Called into the courtroom by her stage name, the woman was one of six former female employees who gave evidence against adult entertainment barons Michael and John Chow.
The allegations were made at a hearing into two liquor licence applications for premises in central Auckland before the city’s Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority.
One was to renew the licence for the brothers’ Gore St strip bar the Penthouse Club and adjoining brothel Galaxy Club. The other was for a new licence, combining separate temporary licences for their Karangahape Road strip bar Mermaids and adjoining brothel Splash Club.
The police haven’t opposed the applications. Neither has the Auckland Medical Officer of Health.
The only objection came from the company that operates Calendar Girls, their closest rivals. Over two days this week the evidence presented gave a sometimes disturbing account of the rivalries and alleged working practices of the local sex industry.
The Chows’ lawyer Alastair Sherriff told the hearing all six women who gave evidence against his clients’ applications were linked to Calendar Girls’ owner Jackie Le Prou. She had paid for them to come to the hearing.
Last year Ms Le Prou told the Herald on Sunday that Auckland didn’t need any more strip clubs.
“I know of clubs that are struggling,” she said. “The Chows are playing Monopoly – whether it’s pulling a building down or stopping someone from getting a licence, they will take over. So look out Auckland, look out Hamilton.”
The witnesses had plenty to say about their time working for the Chows, painting a picture of premises awash with alcohol where staff came second to customers – provided they kept buying booze. Women were attacked, staff got drunk just to get through their shifts and the Chow brothers either didn’t know or didn’t care, the hearing was told.
Given the industry, claim and counterclaim were, perhaps, predictably tawdry. But the parties have been here before, albeit on different sides.