A months-long protest is underway at Star Garden Topless Dive Bar, one of the Valley’s oldest 21+ venues. Current and former dancers as well as their supporters are picketing the North Hollywood business, alleging that owners and security staff have fostered an environment of harassment and been lax regarding worker safety and cleanliness. The walkout is ongoing, even as Star Gardens remains open for business.
The protest started in March after a customer refused to delete a recorded video of a topless dancer, reports USC Annenberg Media. In most strip bars, present-day etiquette is to remain off phones altogether, with many spaces going further to actually enforce a no-phones policy. Star Garden is no different, but dancers say that in this instance the on-site security refused to get the customer to comply. What’s more, they allege, a dancer who complained to management about the incident was allegedly fired after speaking up. From there, most of the employees moved to strike while presenting a petition to the club’s owners, Stepan and Yevgenya “Jenny” Kazaryan.
The dancers also take issue with Star Garden’s broader security policy, which they say prohibits guards from intervening and protecting dancers from belligerent customers without management’s approval. The petition demands that Star Garden put an “end to retaliatory firings and bad club policies that put their safety at risk.”
When the dancers first attempted to return to work after the initial walkout, none were allowed to enter the premises. Instead, they were instructed to schedule one-on-one meetings with co-owner Yevgenya Kazaryan, who then began a lockout campaign against those dancers. That lockout remains in place, even as dancers have filed a complaint this month with California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The complaint lists more than 30 violations including broken glass, furniture with bed bugs, rats and roaches on-site, a rusty nail protruding on stage, and a white substance falling from the ceiling, reports Jezebel.
The petition also details more concerns about health and safety with drunk customers. The petition says:
At the Club, we navigate a room which is regularly full of belligerently drunk men who push our boundaries and often scare us. Our employer should not prioritize customers’ desire for entertainment over our health and safety. When customers become drunk, we expect the bar to cut them off, as is required by law. When customers film us performing without our consent, we need the Club to demand that they stop.
On Instagram, a group of protestors called Strippersstrikenoho have begun to share alleged working conditions at Star Garden. The protest is being dubbed the #GardenLockout, and the folks behind the account have begun to ask customers not to cross picket lines and to stand in solidarity with the workers as they fight for increased safety while at work. That includes things like protected walks to and from their vehicles during work hours. Eater LA reached out to the Kazaryans, but has yet to hear back.