Strip club teases investors with public share offer

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It promises to be one of the more risque share issues of recent times, its success almost guaranteed by the irresistible combination of sex and money. Britain is to get its first publicly quoted "lap dancing" club.

From next May, the Berkeley Playhouse will open in the heart of London's Mayfair district, with a troupe of 150 girls. For pounds 10 they will perform an erotic dance "in your lap".

"It's going to be the Playboy Club of the late 1990s," pledges the club's spokesman, Peter Morley. "This is the first club of its kind in England and promises to be a very sexy investment."

The Berkeley Club is raising pounds 2.1m through the Enterprise Investment Scheme and plans to bring the club to the Ofex market, though no date has been set.

There is a minimum investment of pounds 5,000 (pounds 1 a share), for which investors gain free membership to the club. An outlay of pounds 10,000 secures free life membership. Otherwise private membership costs pounds 200, or pounds 500 for corporate deals.

The company is attempting to maintain a sense of decorum with its investment material, though its prospectus features page numbers illustrated with pictures of a blonde "dancer" in various stage of undress. Sporting a fishnet bodysuit and stockings in the introductory section on page two, she is virtually naked by the listing particulars at the back.

The club is the brainchild of John Paul, a nightclub entrepreneur who developed shops on London's Carnaby Street in the 1960s and ran 1960s nightclubs Wedgies and Tokyo Joe. The concept is based on others in the United States, where they have proved a huge success.

A key job at the Berkeley Club is held by Alan Whitehead, a former member of the Marmalade 1960s pop group. Now a choreographer, his task is to train the dancers, who can earn up to pounds 400 a night.

Mr Morley is adamant the Berkeley Playhouse will not be a sleazy strip joint. "It's for chaps from the City and the West End. It's definitely not for the dirty mac brigade."

The notion was ridiculed yesterday by Peter Stringfellow, the nightclub impresario who has been running lap dance nights at his club three times a week since July. "With all respect to them [the Berkeley Playhouse] they are asking for a lot of money without a great deal of knowledge about the market. I'm very sceptical."

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