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Exotic dancer sues Admiral Theatre over tips, lack of minimum wage

The Admiral Theatre on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

An exotic dancer at the Admiral Theatre has sued the North Side strip club in federal court for allegedly not paying dancers minimum wage and taking a portion of their tips, records show.

Paulina Wisniewska filed the proposed class-action lawsuit Wednesday, in which she says she has been an exotic dancer at the Admiral since 2013.

A woman who answered the phone at the Admiral hung up on a reporter seeking comment.

Wisniewska alleges the Admiral has misclassified its exotic dancers as independent contractors, “when in reality they are employees.” She said it controls where the dancers should be and when, what they can wear, how much they can receive for private dances and sessions and how they can interact with customers.

“Dancers must dance on stage for at least two songs at a time,” Wisniewska’s complaint alleges. “They must remove their top during the first 10 to 15 seconds of the first song and remove their bottom during the first 10 to 15 seconds of the second song; they are not allowed to carry a phone with them on the floor; and they must receive permission from management to leave the premises before the end of the night.”

She said the dancers have no control over customer volume, advertising or the atmosphere at the club. And they must offer a floor dance and promotional T-shirt at least once during the night. On certain nights, dancers must also perform “mystery dances” and “two-for-one” specials, according to the complaint.

The Admiral has the power to hire, fire and discipline the dancers, Wisniewska alleges. It has been known to fine them or send them home “if they are caught chewing gum on the premises” as well as “if dancers are late getting on stage,” the lawsuit states.

Finally, Wisniewska claims dancers “receive compensation only in the form of gratuities from patrons,” are forced to pay house fees of between $40 and $180 each shift, and have been forced to share tips with managers, “house moms,” disc jockeys, security workers and makeup artists.

The Admiral’s owner, Sam Cecola, is also named as a defendant. Cecola and the Admiral made headlines just last month when porn star Stormy Daniels — who is locked in a legal battle with President Donald Trump — appeared there as part of her national “Make America Horny Again” tour.