Party capital heaves sigh of relief – except for strippers


Prague : A young stripper wearing braids and a skimpy black outfit has a bored, blank stare as she sits slouched on the backrest of a chocolate-brown leather club chair.

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While only two years ago her workplace – a dim red-lit strip club in the historical heart of Prague – would be already crowded with British revellers, during last week its high-heeled personnel clearly outnumbered the clients.

“This summer is the worst in the history of this establishment,” grumbles its tanned owner on condition of anonymity. “Two years ago”, he adds, “you would have a hard time making your way to the toilets.”

Prague became a hotspot for rowdy Brits celebrating the passage from bachelorhood to matrimony soon after budget airlines first landed at this charming city five years ago.

But as cheap airlines have been swiftly opening up new destinations across the continent, including the former Eastern bloc, the boozed-up British partygoers have followed.

In 2006 the British, at 566,225 visitors, safely ranked as the second-largest group visiting the Czech Republic. At the same time though the number was down by 13.6 percent on the year before – the sharpest drop in any of the 10 top visiting nations.

Tourism analysts believe that the British bachelor parties – the stag dos and their female hen counterparts – account for the downturn.

“We welcome the ebb of this kind of tourism,” says Tomio Okamura, spokesman for the Association of Czech Travel Agencies. “We don’t want alcohol and girls to form the image of Prague.”

At Caffrey’s, an Irish pub on the historical Old Town Square and once a stag and hen favourite watering hole, the staff heaves a sigh of relief this season, despite smaller sales and tips.

“I am glad but my boss may not be,” quips bartender Tomas Kaplan.

Now the pub attracts families that would have been put off by the rowdy revellers. “Nobody calls you names. Nobody takes a leak in the corner. Nobody runs around naked,” Kaplan lists the benefits.

But not everyone enjoys the ebb.

Hotels that had accommodated several groups each weekend only two years ago say the numbers are down by half. “We would gladly take them, if they were to come,” says Zuzana Krahulikova, bookings head at Hotel Olsanka.

The strip club owner has also seen the stag business reduced by half.

Only a year ago, he had the club’s sprawling basement premises turned into an Irish pub complete with washable green wallpaper.

“Now we almost never open it,” he gestures at the bar, which smells of fresh wood rather then of spilled liquor. He is gratified that half of his strippers left for beach resorts to pull themselves over the summer slack.

Meanwhile, Prague Pissup, a stag-party tour operator with branches in Tallinn, Bratislava, Budapest and Warsaw, which brings anywhere between 35 and 70 groups to those Eastern European cities each weekend, plans to expand its offerings to make up for the Prague decline.

Trailing low-cost airlines to new corners, the firm is to add Berlin and Split this year and Sophia and Bucharest the next. “The more places you offer, better it will be,” says co-founder Tom Kenyon because “groups go everywhere.”

The Prague business has been down 10 percent this year and some eight percent the year before, he adds. But he is far from worried.

“As long as you can buy five beers in Prague for a price of one in London they will come,” he says with a cheerful yet slightly malicious laugh.