by Madeline Kotzer
Bev Gardner loves the art of the tease. For her, the prospect of her burlesque club being (legally) allowed to take off their hats, gloves and knickers at licensed events in Saskatchewan is a thrilling entertainment prospect.
“Burlesque started a long time ago in the 1930s and 40s, it came out of the travelling shows – the comedy and the acting. It is all about the tease!”
Gardner opened Bottoms Up Burlesque Club in Regina with Anna Scott five years ago.
“…Of course, girls’ taking their clothes off has always been very exciting. Their skirts would fly up; their knickers would fall down. That was always the idea for us. To bring back the tease,” explained Gardner.
But her ability to do so has been fairly limited in Saskatchewan, until recently.
In November, 2012, the Saskatchewan Government announced that it was making sweeping, omnibus changes to the province’s liquor laws.
These changes included one provision concerning nudity and exotic dancing at licensed venues. Stripping and wet t-shirt contests are now allowed where liquor is sold, but no full frontal nudity is allowed (although bare-breasts with pasties covering the nipples will be okay).
This is a big change for Saskatchewan – a province that has never permitted stripping or nudity at licensed businesses.
However, Bottoms Up Burlesque can’t take off their knickers, on stage, yet.
The troupe will have to wait until the provincial government sits in their spring session, which will begin in March. Because all of the liquor law changes include changing actual regulations, the new legislation must be passed in the legislature, a process that should only take a matter of days once the ball is rolling.
The changes are coming fast now, but not everyone has been waiting patiently.
Joan Bandet owns The Gaslight Saloon, a biker bar on Broad Street in Regina. The Gaslight’s employees have been stripping at live shows there and holding “lingerie lunches” in the name of good business and customer satisfaction for the past 10 years.
Bandet says the laws are pure formalities, that don’t make a lot of sense to her.
“Right now they come out in G-strings and [have] pasties on, and [when the laws change] they will come in wearing clothes and end up in G-strings and pasties,” said Bandet.
She has been fined several times in the past for the shows held on the Gaslight’s stage, particularly the ones that involve a stripper’s pole.
But for Bandet the repercussions have never been serious enough to worry about them, or wait for the laws to change.
“Basically all the law will do is regulate where you can put the bars and they will end up charging an extra fee probably for the liquor licenses to include that… and the only difference is that they will come out with clothes on and end up without,” said Bandet.
Other liquor law changes that the people of Saskatchewan can look forward to seeing soon or dread (depending on which side of the temperance fence you lean), include being allowed to bring a bottle of your favourite wine to a restaurant, having a beer or glass of wine at your salon, buying off-sale alcohol at any licensed restaurant and cracking a cold one while you’re out at the movies.
The last change might be a little tricky considering that movie theatres are open to patrons of all ages. However, big-box theatres seem to have a plan ready to go.
Eddie Johnston is the manager of Galaxy Cinemas in Regina’s north end. He says there is a lot of buzz around the water cooler about what the changes might actually look like.
“Theatres are planning on doing a lounge-type thing, where you drink and are separate [from the rest of the theatre],” Johnston explained.
However, no official word, or plans for changes are visible at the theatres yet.
“That is the word going around,” said Johnston.
And while the rumours are flying as Saskatchewan waits to see what the changes will actually look like, one thing is certain - the status quo is going to change, soon.