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A clip joint or fleshpot is an establishment, usually a strip club or entertainment bar, typically one claiming to offer adult entertainment or bottle service, 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 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.

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Clip joints in the United Kingdom

A number of clip joints (or "near beer bars") still operate in London's Soho area, alongside legitimate strip bars.

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, listing things like a "hostess fee" or "service charge." The arrival of the bill typically corresponds with the arrival of a few large bouncers to ensure payment.

This scam is in a legal grey area if extortion 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" 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.

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. [1]

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

Bottle service clubs

The Manhattan 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. [3]

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