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PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2014 7:59 am 
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Horror hits Hong Kong's famed red-light district
By JACK CHANG
November 5, 2014

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Bar girls sit outside a night club in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG (AP) — For generations of Western men, Hong Kong's Wan Chai neighborhood captured all the mystery and hedonism of this financial capital known around the world as the Pearl of the Orient.

Prostitutes, strippers and bar girls entertained visiting sailors and businessmen at all hours in these neon-filled blocks, even as working-class Hong Kongers went about their business around them. And despite all the vice, foreigners could count on being able to walk home safely in the wee hours, while many prostitutes worked independently, without protection.

Now, the neighborhood has been jolted by the killings of two young Indonesian women, with a British banker the sole suspect. Even as the music and drinks continue flowing in Wan Chai's bars, people say the murders have cast a pall on the freewheeling streets. "If you go with somebody, and you don't know who they are, that's what could happen to you," said Allen Youngblood, an American jazz pianist who has lived in Hong Kong since 1992. "You roll the dice, and you don't know who's who."

Hong Kong police have charged 29-year-old British banker Rurik George Caton Jutting with two counts of murder in the deaths of 29-year-old Seneng Mujiasih and 25-year-old Sumarti Ningsih. Police found the bodies in Jutting's 31st-floor apartment, Ningsih with stab wounds to the buttock and neck and Mujiasih stuffed into a suitcase left on the balcony, also with cuts to her neck. Police were alerted by Jutting himself, and was waiting for them in his apartment when officers arrived.

On Wednesday, several regulars in a British-themed bar called Old China Hand on Lockhart Road in the heart of the red-light district said they knew Jutting and Mujiasih.

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People walk past a night club in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

A Filipino bartender, who identified herself only as Lisa, said she remembered Mujiasih approaching strangers in the bar, always ready to chat them up. "If you didn't know her, she would come and talk to you," the bartender said. "She had a lot of jokes. She loved meeting people. It is just a sad thing."

Youngblood called Jutting a bully who used his bulky body to push his way through crowds and drink from other's glasses. "He wanted to get two or three girls at the same time," he said while sipping a vodka tonic. "He had a lot of money and used it on women. There are a lot of guys around here like that."

On any given night, scores of foreign men and young, made-up Asian women fill the pubs on Lockhart Road, while outside on the sidewalk, hostesses in cocktail dresses swarm passing Western men, hoping to entice them into booming nightclubs.

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Massage advertising posters are seen on a road side in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

That seedy scene long defined Hong Kong to outsiders, even as prostitution became more established in other neighborhoods, said John Carroll, a professor who specializes in the city's history at the University of Hong Kong. "When they think of Wan Chai, for a lot of people, they think of Suzie Wong," he said, referring to the fictional Hong Kong prostitute in a 1957 book about the city's sex industry. "But there's much more to Wan Chai."

The neighborhood on Hong Kong island now includes middle-class apartment towers as well as blocks with some of the highest land prices in the world. Even the red-light district has been transforming, with luxury stores and shopping centers moving in and rents shooting up. The rent for one storefront on Lockhart Road is about $80,000 a month, said Steve Sayell, a former British policeman who said he met Jutting several times. Many of those moving in are highly paid professionals working in the city's finance sector and eager to blow their paychecks in Wan Chai's bars and nightclubs, Sayell said. For them, spending hundreds of dollars on prostitutes and cocaine is just part of a normal night's agenda, he said.

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A man is seen in a night club in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

"They need a release," Sayell said. "In the old days, you just drank a lot. Now a lot of people are resorting to recreational drugs."

For many of the Southeast Asian women working in Wan Chai, stints on the strip help bring in extra income on top of day jobs as maids and nannies, he said. One of the victims, Mujiasih, had overstayed a domestic worker visa, said Sam Aryadi, an official with the Indonesian Consulate in Hong Kong. About half of the 319,325 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong are Indonesian and nearly all are women, according to the human rights group Amnesty International.

Mira Septyawaniti, a 36-year-old Indonesian who first came to Hong Kong in 1999 as a domestic worker, said many of her friends were mourning the two victims. She said she got to know Mujiasih in Wan Chai and like her had left her domestic worker job. "A lot of people are talking about her now," Septyawaniti said. "We all felt like she was one of us."

A Zambian prostitute, who only identified herself as Suzie, said she wouldn't be put off by the murders even though she works in some of the same bars Jutting drank in. "It's so sad," she said. "Have you heard of something like that? But if they try to cut me, I'll fight back. I'm a fighter." Lisa, the bartender, also insisted the murders wouldn't stop the party in Wan Chai. "Wan Chai will stay exactly the same," she said. "People will come here looking for fun, they'll meet all kinds of different people, and when they're tired, they'll go back safely to their homes."

Source: Yahoo! AP.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2014 4:36 pm 
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Madame Jojo’s, legendary Soho nightclub, forced to close
by Hannah Ellis-Peterse
Monday, 24 November 2014

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Madame Jojo’s hosts the 2012 world burlesque games. Photograph: Martin Harris/Capital Pictures

Nestled in the heart of Soho in central London sits a small, unimpressive-looking venue.

Push your way through the double doors beneath a seedy flashing neon sign, however, and you encounter a plush world of opulence, red velvet curtains and art deco mirrors.

Until recently, the crowd filling the dance floor was as likely to be clad in baseball caps and chains as burlesque basques and feathers, but Madame Jojo’s – home to some of London’s most diverse nightlife for more than half a century – has now shut down for good.

News that Westminster council had revoked its licence this week, following an incident outside the club, has been greeted with disbelief, both by those who have hosted nights at the venue for years and the many loyal punters who flocked there every week in search of the quirkier side of London’s club scene. Supporters of Madame Jojo’s say that the closure is part of the council’s drive to gentrify Soho, which is robbing the area of its unique atmosphere and heritage in the process.

The venue, known to many as the home of burlesque and cabaret in Soho, hosted some of the earliest gigs played by bands such as the xx and Anna Calvi, and Lorde played her first UK show there. It was also the focal point of Michael Winterbottom’s 2013 film The Look Of Love, in which Steve Coogan plays Paul Raymond, the Soho porn baron who owned and ran Madame Jojo’s in the 1960s.

The incident that prompted the council to close the venue took place on 24 October, when its bouncers became involved in a dispute with a customer. The police report says members of the security team and their taxi operator violently assaulted the man after a verbal altercation. The man initially left, but returned and threw bottles at the bouncers and members of the public. The bouncers responded by attacking him with baseball bats. The police report concluded with a call to suspend the venue’s licence pending full revocation.

Madame Jojo’s subsequently changed its manager and bouncers for a team approved by the council, but it was not enough to save its licence.

Marcus Harris, who co-ran the now infamous White Heat night at the venue, hosting up and coming bands every week for more than 10 years, said the closure was a real loss for Soho. “There has been a venue in that place since the 1950s and it was given that name in the 1960s,” he said. “It’s a huge part of Soho’s history. Even the way the venue is decorated, there is nothing else like it in London. You can go there and see bands, you can see DJs, but you can also see cabaret and burlesque all sorts of unusual nights under one banner. It’s like a community of fringe culture.”

Harris said it was the first time in his decade at Madame Jojo’s that anything violent had happened, and that he could vouch for the venue’s previously good relationship with the council. He believes the speedy decision to close the venue permanently was indicative of the council’s negative attitude toward the few older, late-licence venues that still remain in the heart of Soho, an area “now in the clutches of gentrification”.

“In my opinion, it seems that the council just used the incident as a good excuse to take away the licence,” he said. “It’s one of the few places left round there which has a 3am licence, seven nights a week. If you look at the way the area is changing, they clearly don’t want a late night drinking presence anywhere in Soho anymore. They want to make Soho about families – shopping, going out to eat, going to the theatre. The bars shut at 11 and you’re home by midnight.”

The future of Harris’s White Heat is now uncertain. “Crossrail already took at least five venues in the area and there is definitely a feeling that older, late night venues are being severely punished for things that might have been overlooked in the past … It’s bizarre how radically the area has changed in the past few years … It looks largely the same but it’s had a lot of its history gutted.”

Alexander Parsonage, the artistic director of the Finger in The Pie theatre group, which performed a cabaret show at Madame Jojo’s every month for the past six years, said Madame Jojo’s was unique. “Jojo’s brought together gay culture and burlesque culture with mainstream music and club nights. Everyone went there. It was a rare place that brought together all these worlds. The whole time we’ve been there, there’s been a hip-hop night on after us, so for years there’s always this wonderful moment at the end of our show where you have a roomful of people in suits and corsets suddenly meeting these b-boy guys with their baggy trousers and baseball caps and staring slightly over a cultural void at each other, yet just carrying on dancing and having a great time. Jojo’s is the only place I know where that would happen.

“The closure of Madame Jojo’s plays to the weird gentrification that’s happened in Soho over the past 10 years. For 400 years its been the gloriously seedy underbelly of London, where some of the most interesting subculture has thrived, and yet in the last 10 years Westminster council seem hellbent to destroy that, to gut its character completely and turn everything into high end retail.”

A statement by Tim Mitchell, the chairman of Westminster city council’s licensing committee, said: “On 24 October, an organised assault with injury took place – involving staff from Madame Jojo’s and Escape Bar – raising serious questions about their management. “Our licensing sub-committee has to consider the safety of the public and after considering evidence from a number of interested parties, including the police, it was concluded that the licences for both bars should be revoked. The fact that these events are the subject of an on-going criminal investigation tells you how serious the assault was – and also means we are unable to say any more at the moment.”

Madame Jojo’s said they had no comment.

Source: Guardian UK.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2015 6:22 am 
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Art and commerce battle for the soul of London's Soho after the closure of famed burlesque and sex clubs and skyrocketing property prices
9 December 2014

Madame Jojo's is dead, but the risque London institution is not passing quietly.

The closure of the venerable burlesque nightclub has ignited a battle between developers, residents and entertainers for the soul of Soho, the city's late-night hub, red-light district and creative heart.

As soaring London property prices fill once-scruffy areas with glass condos and office buildings, protesters including actor Benedict Cumberbatch are rallying to try to stop Soho going the way of New York's Times Square, a tourist playground with the rough edges removed.

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On this Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 photo, musician Tim Arnold, poses in his flat in central London's Soho district

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Arnold, poses in front of closed club Madame Jojo's Arnold has enlisted friends and fellow performers to try and reverse the closure

'I think it's a robbery. It's a robbery from the people who visit Madame Jojo's, and it's a robbery of the people who perform there,' said musician Tim Arnold, standing in front of the club's locked doors and unlit sign. A singer-songwriter who performs as the 'Soho Hobo,' Arnold has enlisted friends and fellow performers including Cumberbatch, actor-comedian Stephen Fry and Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who, to try to reverse the closure.

Arnold has Soho blood in his veins. His grandmother was a performer in circuses and variety shows. His mother was a 'Windmill Girl' at Soho's first nude revue club, the Windmill Theatre. Arnold has seen many music venues close over the years, but losing Madame Jojo's was the last straw. Everyone from Adam Ant to Adele has performed at a venue famed for its art deco interior and eclectic lineup of DJs, musicians, comedians, burlesque shows, drag acts and cabaret nights. 'All areas of culture cohabit in Soho,' said Arnold, who sees the club as a symbol of the area's diversity. 'That's the success of it. It's a microcosm of what really we'd all like the world to be.'

The club was closed in late November after an altercation in which bouncers attacked an unruly customer with a baseball bat. But local officials had already approved the site for demolition and redevelopment as a 'high quality' complex of retail outlets, restaurants, offices and apartments.

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On this Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 photo, British mounted police ride past the closed club Madame Jojo's, as they patrol in central London's Soho district

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The closure of Madame Jojo's, the venerable burlesque nightclub has ignited a battle between developers, locals and entertainers for the soul of Soho, the city's late-night hub, red-light district and creative heart

The plans by property owner Soho Estates also promise to get rid of unlicensed sex shops nearby and 'drive out anti-social and criminal uses.' Some fear that's code for sanitizing Soho, a long-time home to artists, outsiders and rebels whose residents have included Casanova, Mozart and Karl Marx.

After World War II, Soho's smoky late-night dives attracted artists including Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. In the 1950s, the first British rock 'n' roll acts played in its coffee shops, and in the '70s its music clubs throbbed with the sound of punk. Waves of immigrants — Jewish, Italian, Chinese — established shops and restaurants. Soho also became the home of Britain's movie business — home to digital effects studios and post-production houses — and a hub of gay nightlife. Soho has also long been synonymous with sex. Porn publisher Paul Raymond, dubbed the 'King of Soho,' opened London's first strip club here in 1958. Raymond Revuebar was considered a classy venue, but by the 1970s sleaze was spreading, and Soho had 140 unlicensed sex shops.

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Copies of a local newspaper are for sale in central London's Soho district

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On this Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 photo, people walk past a bookstore that also features a sex shop inSoho

There was little investment by landlords, and Soho's Georgian buildings became run down — but at least rents were cheap. 'They neglected the place, and in the neglect people were able to do things,' said Leslie Hardcastle, president of conservation group the Soho Society. 'It was a run-down area. Now it is a very lucrative piece of real estate.'

These days, Soho's red-light district is confined to a few streets of peep shows, strip clubs and sex shops. Visitors are more likely to be drawn to the area's destination restaurants, boutique hotels and upmarket stores. Scuzzy apartments are being replaced by luxury dwellings. One three-bedroom apartment is currently on sale for 6.5 million pounds ($10 million).

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A coffee shop in central London's Soho district. The district is a battle between developers, locals and entertainers

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Aman looks into the front window of a closed sex shop in central London's Soho district. The closure of Madame Jojo's wasn't the only thing to go away

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This bookstore that also features a sex shop in the central London district

Ironically, the property company that wants to tear down Madame Jojo's is run by members of Raymond's family. Soho Estates says its redevelopment will include at least two nightclubs, including a reincarnation of the lost nightclub. 'We recognize the rich and creative history of Soho and the importance of venues such as Madame Jojo's,' the firm said in a statement.

Arnold, Cumberbatch and the club's other supporters aren't convinced. They want London Mayor Boris Johnson to step in to save one of a dwindling number of live-music venues in the area. Soho, they argued in a recent open letter, 'has always depended on building around and adding to what has gone before, not by demolishing it.' Despite the changes, Hardcastle and Arnold both say Soho is still a surprisingly close-knit area. 'It's like a village,' said Hardcastle, who has lived in Soho for 47 years. 'When I go out and get a loaf of bread, my wife comes after me and says 'What's taking you so long?' because I've had a conversation with 20 people.'

Source: Daily Mail UK.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2015 6:29 pm 
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Few grieve for the passing of Mumbai’s red-light district
by Jason Burke
Monday, 22 December 2014

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Rising rents are driving many sex workers out of Mumbai’s red-light district, Kamathipura. Photograph: Pal Pillai/AFP/Getty Images

It is dusk in Lane 14.

Pools of water in the potholes reflect the lights flickering in an office block high above. The skeletal cement frames of half-built apartments are silhouettes against the darkening sky.

Down in the narrow alley below, trade is slow. It is early; the women spread plastic sheets in front of the rickety building that is both home and workplace, and share a frugal dinner. The rooms they rent for 300 rupees (£3) a day are too small for anyone to share a meal indoors.

The scene in Kamathipura, in the heart of Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, appears timeless. Established in the late 18th century by the British, the neighbourhood has been a hub of sex work and trafficking ever since. Yet what is one of the oldest and biggest red-light districts in the world may be living out its final days. “It’s almost over already. Everything is shutting. It’s the end of Kamathipura,” said Hasina, 38, who has worked and lived there for two decades. Few beyond the brothel owners and the traffickers will mourn its passing, however. “This is a terrible place,” Hasina said.

Mumbai now has some of the most expensive real estate on earth and demand for land in this hugely overcrowded city of about 20 million is high. Developers have long eyed the lanes of Kamathipura but India’s flagging economic growth in recent years and a lack of investment capital has held them back. Though almost all the area had been bought up by dealers at the height of the country’s economic boom, projects to turn its brothels, cafes, grocery shops and workshops into offices, malls and flats never got going.

Now however, with the promise of major reforms by the new government, business confidence has picked up again and development projects planned a decade ago are being dusted off. “It’s moving again. There are fresh notices being served on buildings used for sex work. They are telling people it is time to leave,” said Pravin Patkar, who runs the anti-trafficking organisation Prerana in an outlying area of Kamathipura.

There is little thought for those who live and work here. Fatima, a 32-year-old sex worker, said the building in which she has lived and worked since being sold by her sister to a brothel owner at the age of 12 is slated for demolition. Details are scant – but she knows there will be no compensation for her. Eviction notices are expected any day. “I have no idea where I would go. I have no family, no savings, nothing. Just my son [aged nine] to look after,” she said.

About 10,000 female sex workers live in Kamathipura, an estimated third of the total 20 years ago. They come from all over India, as well as neighbouring countries Nepal and, increasingly, Bangladesh. Almost all have been trafficked, sold by relatives or lured by men who convinced them that a better life awaited them in Mumbai. Police are paid off, or turn a blind eye. A special trafficking court is little deterrent. Younger women, the new arrivals, are routinely kept captive, sometimes locked in small rooms for weeks or months on end or blackmailed into remaining.

For Sati Sheikh, 27, it was threats of violence to her two small children that kept her in a brothel, seeing about six clients every day. “They threatened to sell them both. I was compelled to work‚“ she said. Once in the trade, most women remain. There are few other options. Local employers refuse to take them on, even for menial jobs. “They won’t even let us clean for them. Are we not human?” Sheikh said.

One way out is through their children. NGOs working in the neighbourhood organise the placement of sons and daughters in local schools. When they are old enough, the children start work, allowing their mothers to pay off debts to brothel keepers and leave. “I’ve done this for 20 years so my daughters won’t have to do it. My son is in college and working in an ice-cream parlour. He is now supporting me so I can stop,” said Devi, 36.

Sex workers in Kamathipura say they pay a fee of 1,500 rupees every two weeks to local police to avoid harassment. With rents rising to 9,000 rupees a month for a single tiny room, many are looking for alternatives even before their homes are demolished. “The rate at which the women are leaving is high and the numbers coming in are dropping but not because fewer are being trafficked but because so many other places are coming up in Mumbai,” said Patkar, the NGO director.

The scattering of prostitution around the city is making it much harder for organisations to reach vulnerable women and their children. “The dispersal means they will suffer more,” Patkar said. “Here we can give them services. We run a clinic, get the kids into schools. That’ll be much harder to do.”

The supreme court is considering whether to legalise prostitution, or at least clarify its legal status. By 10pm, trade has picked up in Lane 14. Under a Chinese lantern carefully suspended under two street lamps, the women wait for clients, talking softly, watching film clips on their mobile phones. A child parts a grubby curtain of red cloth in a doorway and reveals a tiny room where a girl sits on a bed combing her hair in a pink plastic mirror. Then someone pulls the curtain shut.

Source: Guardian UK.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 1:41 pm 
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Amsterdam sanctions new brothel to be run by sex workers themselves
November 19, 2015

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Amsterdam red light district brothel - One of the buildings earmarked to become a brothel. Photo: Amsterdam.nl

Amsterdam is to press ahead with plans to sanction a new brothel in the city’s red light district which will be run by sex workers themselves.

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan commissioned a feasibility study earlier this year and the project can now go ahead, the Parool says on Thursday. The council said a ‘socially-aware’ consortium of parties with ‘property expertise’ has been found to buy the four properties where the brothel will be located but did not give further details.

Enough women who would like to work in the brothel have also come forward, the paper says. The properties have a combined 15 windows and are currently owned by the city council’s property arm Stadsgoed NV. According to the Parool earlier this year, it bought the buildings from red light district lynchpin Charles Geerts in 2007 for a reported €25m after refusing to grant him a licence to operate brothels.

‘If the experiment is a success, the Eigen Raam (own window) project will make a substantial contribution to a safe and professional Amsterdam prostitution sector,’ the council statement said. The council will not be involved in running the business which will operate as a foundation, the statement stressed. Van der Laan also said that 40 of the 83 brothel windows in the district which had been scheduled for closure will remain open after all.

The city has already bought up red light properties containing 126 windows but the new coalition council agreed last year to reduce the budget for reducing the sex industry presence.

Source: Dutch News.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 6:50 pm 
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The four most famous red light districts in Europe aren’t for the faint of heart
December 16, 2015
by Toby Orton

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Europe is known for its red light districts. Picture: Mr. Thkian

HIDDEN behind — or sometimes in plain sight of — the historic landmarks, revered museums, and renowned entertainment centres of every tourist destination, there almost always exists a seedy underbelly of a city, tempting visitors to come have a peek.

The risqué lure of these lewd, neon neighbourhoods often poses quite a thrill for some travellers. Without necessarily indulging in the vice, visitors can find plenty amid the ruby glow of lights that spells “sex”.

So without further adieu, here’s where to find Europe’s four most famous red light districts.

1. De Wallen, Amsterdam

Amsterdam has built its reputation as one of the world’s most notorious party cities in part thanks to its red light district, known as De Wallen. But the thing about Amsterdam is that the city is changing in a bid to attract tourists looking for a less salacious slice of fun. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The coffee shops and rented sex windows are still very much part of Amsterdam’s triangular Red Light District, but a slew of hip bars and businesses are offering the area something new. Forget the boozy, boorish image of Amsterdam that is all too readily propagated and take in the hip, up-and-coming businesses found in between smoky hazes and curious walks in the streets of sex.

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Welcome to De Wallen. Picture: Taver

2. Reeperbahn, Hamburg

Having been, er, “dragged” through both De Wallen and Hamburg’s Reeperbahn, we can attest that the German city takes the award for sleaziness. From the “No women allowed” signs on the raucous Herbertstraße to the plentiful strip clubs and sex theatres that fill Europe’s largest Red Light District, the Reeperbahn has to be seen to be believed.

And it was thanks to all that seeing and not enough buying on its nefarious side streets that the signs prohibiting women and minors from entering were initially erected (for want of a better word).

Besides sleaze, Reeperbahn also happens to be the centre of Hamburg’s night-life, which makes it some kind of drunken paradise for many. At the very least, a weekend spent exploring Reeperbahn is certainly an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

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Reeperbahn. Picture: Nico Paix

3. Pigalle, Paris

If you want the romanticised version of the Red Light District then look no further than Paris’ Pigalle. Immortalised in song by the likes of Edith Piaf and Yves Montand, and once home to van Gogh, Picasso, and Andre Breton, the district has a history as bohemian as it is bawdy.

The present-day Pigalle remains the centre of sex in Paris, but to go along with the XXX shops, peepshows, and brothels, you’ll find speak-easy bars and clubs. The neighbourhood is located at the foot of Montmartre, and you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the windmill of the notorious Moulin Rouge.

This isn’t the safest part of Paris by night so once you’ve walked those seedy streets, head to the super-hip SoPi — South Pigalle — for drinks and dancing at Le Mansart.

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Pigalle. Picture: Terrazzo

4. Schipperskwartier, Antwerp

Located across a three-block “tolerance zone,” Antwerp’s red light district actually achieves its famous reputation for being the antithesis of the seedy, violent neighbourhoods usually associated with this type of night-life.

Legalising prostitution in the specific area of the city known as Schipperskwartier meant taking a large chunk of power from the organised crime gangs who had muscled in on the city’s vice trade.

The three blocks themselves are clean and even relatively peaceful, attracting nowhere near the levels of bachelor party debauchery as other European red light districts. Adopting the Amsterdam model of shopfront windows, the area allows the curious to take late night neon-lit walks without the fear of trouble and enjoy some excellent night-life at the same time such as Cafe d’Anvers.

phpBB [video]

Antwerp red light district

This story originally appeared on Oyster.com.

Source: News AU.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 6:50 am 
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On February 29, 1960, the first Playboy Club, featuring waitresses clad in "bunny" outfits, opened in Chicago.

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