Clip joint
A clip joint or fleshpot is an establishment, usually a strip club
Strip club
A strip club is an adult entertainment venue in which striptease or other erotic or exotic dance is regularly performed. Strip clubs typically adopt a nightclub or bar style, but can also adopt a theatre or cabaret-style....

 or entertainment bar
Bar (establishment)
A bar is a business establishment that serves alcoholic drinks — beer, wine, liquor, and cocktails — for consumption on the premises.Bars provide stools or chairs that are placed at tables or counters for their patrons. Some bars have entertainment on a stage, such as a live band, comedians, go-go...

, typically one claiming to offer adult entertainment
A striptease is an erotic or exotic dance in which the performer gradually undresses, either partly or completely, in a seductive and sexually suggestive manner...

 or bottle service
Bottle service
Bottle service is the sale of liquor by the bottle in bars and nightclubs.The purchase of bottle service typically includes a reserved table for the patron's party and mixers of the patron's choice. Bottle service can include the service of a VIP host, who will ensure that patrons have sufficient...

, in which customers are tricked into paying money and receive poor goods or services, or none, in return. Typically, clip joints suggest the possibility of sex, charge excessively high prices for watered-down drinks, and then eject customers when they become unwilling or unable to spend more money. The product or service may be illicit, offering the victim no recourse through official or legal channels.

In the United States, clip joints were widespread during the national prohibition
Prohibition of alcohol, often referred to simply as prohibition, is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the...

 of alcohol from 1920 to 1933. They are generally outlawed in America now. For instance, the New York State Liquor Authority will impose penalties against any licensed premise permitting such conduct. Clip joints still operate openly in some areas of the world, such as Shanghai, where they prey on visiting foreigners.

The scam

A typical scenario involves a young adult male (typically a tourist) being approached by a beautiful woman (typically either a local or claiming to be) who recommends a "favourite local" bar or club. The man is usually seated at a table and joined by a "hostess," who may or may not order drinks. Whether or not any "services" are performed or drinks are ordered has little bearing on the outlandish bill received at the end of the night. Bills are commonly hundreds of pounds
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

, listing things like a "hostess fee" or "service charge." The arrival of the bill typically corresponds with the arrival of a few large bouncer
Bouncer (doorman)
A bouncer is an informal term for a type of security guard employed at venues such as bars, nightclubs or concerts to provide security, check legal age, and refuse entry to a venue based on criteria such as intoxication, aggressive behavior, or attractiveness...

s to ensure payment.

The beautiful woman or women who originally lured the mark to the location will often make an excuse and leave prior to the arrival of the bill. If confronted the establishment will claim that they have no connection with the woman and indicate that she arrived with the mark, and as such the mark is responsible for all of the items on the bill.

This scam is in a legal grey area if extortion
Extortion is a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime...

 is not explicitly involved, since there is no law against charging high prices and the customer is primarily responsible for determining the prices of services to be rendered before accepting them.

Often, a clip joint employee will wait near a legitimate club, and invite passing pedestrians into a "VIP
Very Important Person
A Very Important Person, or VIP is a person who is accorded special privileges due to his or her status or importance.Examples include celebrities, heads of state/heads of government, major employers, high rollers, politicians, high-level corporate officers, wealthy individuals, or any other...

" area. The potential customers are meant to believe that the person works for the nearby club, though they may not explicitly say so. Once inside, drinks are usually alcohol free (as they usually don't have a licence) or watered down and overpriced with no prices listed on the menu, and (as is typical) unrequested companion(s) may also arrive at the table.

Clip joints in the United Kingdom

A number of clip joints (or "near beer bars") still operate in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

's Soho
Soho is an area of the City of Westminster and part of the West End of London. Long established as an entertainment district, for much of the 20th century Soho had a reputation for sex shops as well as night life and film industry. Since the early 1980s, the area has undergone considerable...

 area, alongside legitimate strip bars. Since 2007, the London Local Authorities Act reclassified clip joints as sex establishments, meaning that they required relevant licences, closing a loophole where these businesses did not need a licence to operate because they did not serve food or alcohol or provide entertainment.

As recently as 2009, 2 people were jailed for 36 and 14 months respectively after threatening an undercover police officer.

Bottle service clubs

The Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

 bottle service club, Arena, was sued in 2007 for their version of the clip joint scam. In December 2007, a patron knowingly purchased a $350 bottle of vodka, but was not told of a 3 bottle minimum. At the end of the night, he was presented with a $1050 tab that included two unordered bottles. When he refused to pay, the Arena bouncers beat him up. The patron agreed to get money from an ATM. The bouncers escorted him two blocks to the ATM, where his debit card was declined. The bouncers then dragged him back to the bar, where he was held until police arrived. He was arrested for theft of services but the charges were dismissed.

Cultural references

The film "Marked Woman
Marked Woman
Marked Woman is a crime melodrama film released by Warner Bros. in 1937. It was directed by Lloyd Bacon, and stars Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, with featured performances by Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell, Rosalind Marquis, Mayo Methot, Jane Bryan, Eduardo Ciannelli and Allen Jenkins...

", starring Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart portrays a clip joint.

External links

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