After 4 decades serving Montreal women, 281 strip club shuts down

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The streets of downtown Montreal have been peppered with strip clubs for decades, but only one of those was geared primarily toward women. Now, after 40 years, patrons of Club 281 will have to find somewhere else to spend their nights.

Founded by France Delisle, Club 281 first opened its doors on 281 Sainte-Catherine Street East on April 14, 1980.

Women of all ages would gather inside and watch men dance in various states of undress, whether it be for a bachelorette party or a night out. 

"The province of Quebec is very open-minded so that's probably why we have so many strip clubs," said Annie Delisle, France Delisle's daughter and owner of the club since 2003. 

"They came and they visited us night after night. It was packed."

Annie Delisle first decided she would sell the club earlier this year.

Having just turned 50 and having run the club for years, she felt she needed a break and a new start. She had hopes of going out with a large celebration, in honour of the club's 40th anniversary — something to give clients and staff a chance to say goodbye. 

But when the province went into lockdown because of COVID-19 last March, those hopes were dashed. 

"We closed way earlier than we thought we would. We were supposed to close tonight, not March 15," Delisle said in an interview Saturday. 

Delisle is holding an online auction next week to clear the bar stools and tables of merchandise from the building. But she isn't letting everything go just yet. 

"I will keep the liquor license for a little while, in case someone wants to buy the club," said Delisle. "I'll still have the license and the accessories and costumes." 

She hopes that, even if no one buys her club, someone will eventually start something similar in Montreal. 

"It would be nice to still have a place where women can feel safe," said Delisle. "Where they can party, they're not afraid someone is going to pour GHB in their drink, and they can just have fun."