The annual Strip-a-thon at the Caddy Shack in downtown Maple Ridge may be nearing its last dance.
But the music will play and the dancers will disrobe again this Sunday to help bring happiness during the holidays to those in need, just as they have for 25 years.
Since 1994, the charity event, for which exotic dancers and club staff donate wages or tips for the day, has raised around $300,000 for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society.
However, the Haney Hotel, which includes the Caddy Shack, has been for sale since last year, and the holder of the liquor licences for the property doesn’t intend to keep a strip club running once a deal is complete.
The Caddy Shack would then join a long list of other such clubs that have closed in the Lower Mainland in recent years – the Cecil Hotel and Fraser Arms in Vancouver, Mugs and Jugs in New Westminster, the Barnett Motor Inn in Port Moody, the Wild Duck Inn in Port Coquitlam, the Alder Inn in Langley and Club Climax in Maple Ridge, to name a few.
And when the Caddy Shack follows, the Christmas hamper – a charity that provides gifts and food for registered families – will have to replace what has become its largest annual source of donations.
Yvan Charette has been general manager of the Haney Hotel, located at the corner of Lougheed Highway and the Haney Bypass, since 2005 and co-owner since 2010.
Charette, who has the liquor licences for the Haney Hotel site, said the Caddy Shack moved to its current location at the back of the building in the 1980s.
He said many factors have contributed to the closure of strip clubs in the region, the main one being the internet. Another is that some were in older buildings that have since been redeveloped.
Changes to smoking laws in 2002 and 2008 also affecting such clubs, Charette added.
“They made everybody put these smoke rooms in that were extravagant amounts of money with glass and ventilation and stuff, and when those were taken out, some places were hit hard by it,” said Charette.
The Caddy Shack was able to rebound, he added.
Stricter impaired driving laws in more recent years affected business, as well, he said.
“I remember when this happened, we lost 90 per cent of our sales Monday through Thursday the first week because nobody understood, nobody knew, even me as an operator, did not understand the whole thing,” said Charette.
But, again, the Caddy Shack bounced back.
One constant through all of the changes, though, has been the success of the Strip-a-thon.
Romana Van Lissum was a shooter girl at the Caddy Shack when it first held the Strip-a-thon. She has since written a handful of books about waitressing at the Caddy Shack, including one detailing the lives of exotic dancers.
She said they used to wear lavish costumes and could make good money, back when bikers frequented the club and drugs were more present.
But times have changed.
Lissum is now semi-retired, working only once a week at the Caddy Shack, mainly to maintain friendships.
Mary Able, whose last name is now Adu-Poku, was manager of the Caddy Shack and organized the first Strip-a-thon. Back then, each department of the hotel was asked to do some kind of charity work.
Adu-Poku went to see the director of the Christmas hamper society because, she said, a lot of people did not want to accept donations from the strip club or its dancers.
The first Strip-a-thon sold out and raised $7,000.
“We charged, I believe it was $5 to get in the place and $7 at the door,” said Adu-Poku, who now works in the cash office for the Haney Hotel.
There was a lot of backlash from the community at the time, she added.
People would write to the paper that they didn’t think it was right that the Christmas hamper society was taking money from dancers, she said.
Adu-Poku ignored such comments because “kids don’t care where their toys come from or where their food comes from.”
She said there are fewer such complaints today.
This year’s event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and feature 15 performers throughout the day.
It will again have a silent auction and a raffle featuring golf packages, golf bags, hockey tickets, took kits, a karaoke machine, table and chairs, beer recliner, large screen TVs, NHL jerseys and children’s toys, including bicycles.
And there will again be a bra auction, with some fetching as much as $2,000.
Last year’s event raised $24,666 and attracted 200 patrons.
The Strip-a-thon set a record in 2016, raising $37,700 in what was a send-off for Tom Cameron, a long-time volunteer with the Christmas Hamper Society who passed away from leukemia just weeks after the event.
Lorraine Bates, with the hamper society, said the annual Caddy Shack donation alone pays for the entire food bill for all the registered families to have a Christmas meal.
“If it went, that would be a big hole,” Bates said of the Strip-a-thon.
The Caddy Shack is the single largest donor to the hamper society, which operated on a budget of $73,000 last year.
Charette said the Caddy Shack – one of at least five remaining strip clubs in the Lower Mainland – could be around for another five or 10 years.
But once the land is sold, he added, a developer will knock down the buildings. He would still have the liquor licenses for the property and any new commercial buildings, although he wouldn’t continue operation of the Caddy Shack.
He and his wife have discussed how to help the Christmas hamper society afterwards. But, for now, he is focused on this year’s event.
He said the goal, before the last dance, is to set a new Strip-a-thon record: $40,000.