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Today, one of the largest strip clubs in Etobicoke, the westernmost borough of Toronto, has become a gourmet burger restaurant. The vestiges of its past as a bar where men would visit to watch scantily clad women and drink beer have been replaced by family-friendly menus and waiters dressed in t-shirts and jeans, while the blacked-out windows have given way to an open, airy interior.
The story is the same in many places across English Canada. Strip clubs were formerly a mainstay of Canadian life, frequented by groups of younger men out on the town, and older men looking to blow off steam after work. But today, the story is bleak for the once thriving industry. The clubs tend to fall into two broad categories. There are the downtown clubs, such as the Brass Rail on Yonge Street in Toronto, popular with tourists and bachelor parties, and those in the suburbs, often in unassuming strip malls and featuring ads for food and drink specials on the front door.
While the downtown clubs are certainly in decline, this second group has been hit even harder by changes in law, demographics, and culture that have widely put the entire industry on a downhill trajectory. The industry group overseeing strip clubs, the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada AEAC , evaporated within the last year amid infighting and a rapidly changing environment. Across Ontario, there are fewer strip clubs than ever before.
Toronto has seen the starkest downturn. Today, only 15 remain — and they operate out of just 13 buildings. This experience has been mirrored across the country as some cities have seen their strip clubs wiped out completely. Canada has had a checkered history with strip clubs, and some of the most vigorous constitutional debates have stemmed from their operation.
The courtroom debate centred around just how much patrons can see — and touch. Today, the law stands that stripping is constitutionally acceptable, but provinces and cities can regulate strip clubs via nuisance laws. This has led to some extreme situations. In Saskatchewan, the legislature has flip-flopped on allowing licensed strip clubs to exist at all. The province had previously never legally permitted strip clubs wherever alcohol is served, but decided to give it a shot in During the small window of legalization, strip performances were permitted twice per month at certain bars, and required frequent police checks and screening processes.