It was a slow night last winter inside a strip club in Long Island City in Queens. Only a smattering of customers were still inside the club. One of them was throwing cash — hundreds of dollars — toward a dancer calling herself Panama as she performed on stage. Once the man stopped, she thanked him and started gathering her earned cash with the help of another dancer.
But the club, like many others now, has a relatively new breed of “bartender” — once called “bottle girls” — women almost as naked as the strippers, who are competing with them for the attention of the audience and their money. They are not your grandfather’s or even your father’s bartender. Like the strippers, they are not employees of the club but “private contractors.” But they have mastered social media, using Instagram to build followings of men in the hope that these men will follow them into the clubs.