Дмитрий Бурак — бизнес-ангел, владелец группы компаний EVERIS, более 4 лет назад открыл стриптиз-бар Gentlemen’s House. Интересно, что суть своего замысла Дмитрий почти до самого открытия не раскрывал родителям — боялся быть неправильно понятым. Он рассказал «Про бизнес» историю проекта и обратил внимание на специфику ведения такого бизнеса в Беларуси.
– I have two higher educations, I worked for 12 years in the structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 10 years ago I decided to change the field of activity and go into business not because it did not work out for me in the Ministry of Internal Affairs – everything was in order there. I wanted to earn more, but in the police it was impossible. But I had no idea how much business is hard work and colossal responsibility.
EVERIS was founded in 2009 and currently unites many organizations that are engaged in plumbing services, but this is absolutely another story . The idea to open a striptease was born thanks to my partner’s wife about 5 years ago. Then we rented apartments in the neighborhood, in fact, we had a common terrace … This is how it was.
The city doesn’t need another bar-restaurant
Once, as the head of EVERIS, I was asked to assess the scale of work on the organization of a ventilation system in a room on one of the central streets of Minsk. The owner of the premises had a desire to open an Italian restaurant.
I thought then that the Italian cuisine in Minsk – and so at every step. And he told the owner of the premises about it. Obviously, the city needed something different.
One evening, sitting on the terrace with my neighbor and friend, we were discussing what format the institution could open on Zybitskaya, where then there were only private recreation clubs and a couple of interesting bars. At some point, his wife joined the conversation. She offered to make a strip-bar instead of another bar-restaurant.
The idea was to sell not only beautiful dance, but also emotional relief. Looking ahead, I will say that the bar is especially popular with IT-specialists. The guys are great specialists in their field, but they often have communication problems, they are embarrassed to meet girls in the subway or any other public place. We don’t have such a problem in the bar. Here they find the opportunity to have a good time in the company of a girl, to find an interlocutor for any mood, character and topic of conversation.
So, for Gentlemen’s House, the location on Zybitskaya (one of the most “party” streets in Minsk) was very successful: a hotel of a famous operator was about to open just opposite, there was a hotel “Europe” nearby and the construction of another one was nearing completion. The presence of a hotel for such a business is important, because it gives a constant influx of guests who have come on a business trip and tourists.
I offered the owner of the premises to lease it to us, and he agreed. Work began, which eventually took about $ 500,000.
Mom was very surprised
Before starting the implementation of my project, I visited all striptease locations in Minsk and some outside Belarus. Minsk bars made a depressing impression.
The business, created 15 years ago and once bringing in a good income, the owners for some reason let it go. Nobody bothered themselves with repairs, preferring to “take out” all the proceeds to a penny.
In May 2014, I came to the studio of my architect friend and told about the idea. He was, to put it mildly, surprised by the sudden turn in my business interests. I set him a difficult task – it was necessary to create a modern place where people would be comfortable to be. Trusting the professionalism and excellent artistic taste of the architect, I at the same time hoped for his adventurism. We agreed that we do not need preliminary design visualization. And, we must pay tribute to him – all four years and a little that Gentlemen’s House exists, we hear that we are comfortable.
We did not spare money either on materials for repairs, or on professional light and sound equipment, which were installed by cool specialists. We understood perfectly well that we were creating not just a bar, but an atmosphere, philosophy, if you like. It would be unfair to deceive the demanding audience we intended to attract.
Until recently, I did not tell my parents that I was going to open a striptease. Still, the business is specific – not everyone perceives it as one of the types of cultural recreation. Mom, when she first got into the space at the end of the renovation, was very surprised, to put it mildly. But she reacted with understanding 🙂 I never had any problems with my wife either.
At first, we were worried that the premises were not on the “first line” of Zybitskaya, but in the courtyard. But, as it turned out later, a quiet courtyard is even a plus. A much more serious miscalculation was that we had delayed the repairs. The rental vacation lasted only three months, and the renovation took seven months. This hit our finances hard. Four months of renting a space of 250 m2 cost us $ 28,000. We did not plan the cost of renting an establishment that did not work.
Another big mistake was our desire to squeeze the maximum out of the place. We planned to work as a restaurant during the day and as a strip at night. But it didn’t work: people simply didn’t come to us or there were too few of them. Through the stained-glass windows, they saw the pylons and understood that here you can count on spectacles, but not on bread. Therefore, the money spent on organizing a full-fledged kitchen never paid off. For example, professional ventilation cost us more than $ 3,500, kitchen equipment – about $ 17,000. As a result, the kitchen was still closed even after a year of the establishment’s operation.
Basically, Gentlemen’s House earns on entrance tickets ($ 25 each), a bar menu. The institution reached self-sufficiency after four months of work. The biggest expenses we still have are renting premises – in the region of $ 10,000. Then there are salaries and taxes. Community bills are around $ 1500.
We did not calculate the average check. One client can come and leave a decent amount of money. Or a company may drop in at a bachelor party, 5-7 people, and spend nothing but $ 50-70 on alcohol.
From 300 to 500 guests visit us a month.
There are a lot of stereotypes
Stereotypes haunted us all the time. Including at the stage of coordination of work. For several months I ran from office to office, explaining to the police department that striptease is a completely legal activity in our country. Interestingly, in addition to the license to trade in alcohol and tobacco, there is something else in this business that hardly anyone even knows about.
Every year Gentlemen’s House, like all other similar institutions, must present its concert program to the Commission from the Ministry of Culture. The one that evaluates films released for distribution, concert programs of artists, performances, etc.
In fact, they check if we really have an erotic program and if we go beyond it. Each dancer, without exception, must show the commission a concert performance, with the preparation of which she is assisted by two of our choreographers. One puts on concert numbers, the second is engaged in staging tricks and, in general, choreography. Guests can see these very rooms in our night program.
There are no special requirements for the height, weight and age of the dancers. But the rest of the requirements for girls were and remain quite strict: attractive appearance, good communication skills.
All the girls who work for us at Gentlemen’s House are officially registered and have labor contracts.
After the initial selection, they fall into the hands of the choreographer. She, with extensive teaching experience behind her, is able to determine in a couple of minutes whether a girl has the ability to strip plastic or not.
Most of the girls had never worked in such an industry before joining us. The choreographer studied with them practically from scratch. But we immediately invited several professional dancers from other Minsk strip-tease bars. It was necessary to dilute the inexperienced team. This helped newcomers to adapt to work faster. The art director, of course, explained to them how to behave, what to say to guests and what not, but the girls needed to learn from someone, for example, the courage to undress in front of strangers.
Due to the fact that the shifts are divided by 2/2, in the dressing rooms of the girls the order is almost like in the barracks. Nobody wants to come to a workplace littered with concert dresses of a shift worker. In total, we have 2 dressing rooms, 2 showers and bathrooms, several wardrobes for suits, a separate wardrobe for shoes.
The days when girls are resting are difficult to call days off. They will not let you lie: if you want to look good, you have to spend a lot of time on fitness, beauty salons. Plus classes with a choreographer at least 2 times a week. They are optional, but girls are willing to visit them.
In addition, the administrator, if he sees that one of the girls is too lazy to do tricks on the pole, can, as a punishment, appoint a compulsory attendance at all classes with the choreographer.
On average, there are from 10 to 14 girls per shift. Their wages include contract salaries and tips they receive from clients for dancing around the table. It happens that guests, not calculating their strength, overdo it with alcohol, start spending money uncontrollably – the administrators are watching this, advising to stop so that it does not “excruciate pain” for the money left and lack of memories.
There are people who, for some reason, equate: striptease is an intimate service. This is not true. Striptease is a huge entertainment industry that has nothing to do with brothels. I suggest thinking about the fact that a striptease dancer is the same job as any other.
Content restrictions affect promotion
I am glad that more and more people here perceive striptease as one of the options for recreation. More and more steam comes in. In general, with regard to statistics, more than 60% of our guests are young people aged 25 to 34. The most popular time to visit is Saturday.
Seasonality is felt, but, I think, not as acute as in neighbors down the street. Traditionally, the second part of January and February remain the lowest in terms of attendance. This is due to the spending of people on New Year’s gifts and the desire to make money in the second half of January after these expenses. February is marked by a recession because it is also the shortest month of the year. Plus, it falls on Valentine’s Day, and this holiday does not correlate too much with our business 🙂
We find our target audience (or, rather, it is us) by queries through search engines, as well as through groups in social networks. We use targeted advertising and run contests.
We carefully select content for publications. For example, a couple of months ago, for reasons that the administration of the resource does not voice to us, an Instagram account with more than 2,000 subscribers was blocked. We were never able to unlock it. Most of the visits to our website are from Facebook. In addition, we have Telegram channel , which we have just started to develop.
Advertising costs are negligible. The problems here are more related to the considerable amount of content restrictions. Nobody will let you hang billboards with our girls around the city 🙂 So the most effective channel is word of mouth. The longer you are in the industry, the more regular customers you have.
Moulin Rouge will not be in Minsk
It makes no sense to scale this business within our country. The country is small, regional cities will not provide the required occupancy rate. This is due to the small number of residents there, and with the greater conservatism of the population, and with the low level of earnings.
I also see no point in going out to neighboring countries, for example Russia or Ukraine. From this point of view, there is no uniqueness in Gentlemen’s House. We just chose the place well, set the job correctly. Some may say: “But Moulin Rouge! ..” Well, firstly, this is not a striptease, but a cabaret. Secondly, more than 30 million tourists come to Paris every year – we simply will not be able to regularly gather an audience for a show of this level. There is no way to fill the institution regularly.
In general, we finally decided for ourselves: this will be one, but a good place for Minsk and its guests.