Legal Brothels in Melbourne

Running a Legal Brothel Melbourne is like running any business…almost

Owning a legal brothel Melbourne sounds like everyone’s dream job – surrounded by beautiful, hot women and collecting money like a bandit. We investigated that reality and learned a few things.

You’ve seen them as you walk down almost any high street, probably even your own shopping centre has one – a “massage” parlour that looks a little, well, seedy. The blacked-out windows, extended hours not to mention the give-away “sexy young Asian girls inside” advertisement. It’s highly likely this shop is one of the illegal brothels that infest Melbourne and seem to operate with impunity despite the “law and order” mantras trumpeted by our political leaders.

There are an estimated 500 illegal brothels in Victoria alone. When you consider there are only 90 legal brothels, that’s quite a discrepancy. And it’s a fact that drives legal brothel owners crazy.  Victoria was the first state to legalise brothels under the 1994 Sex Work Act and for many first-time licensees willing to go through the tortuous process of application, the high cost of the licence and the onerous regulation, then being banished to industrial wastelands to operate, it still seemed like a good business opportunity for some savvy business people willing to submit to the process.

So, my first reality check was the playing field for the sex business is not level. One group, the legal brothels, is regulated to Draconian levels and pays high governance costs while the far larger illegal one operates on a shoestring without regulation or health-checks on High Streets – next to train stations and in many cases next to the local Woollies and schools, literally thumbing their noses at the authorities – whose task is to protect communities from the dangers posed by human trafficking, money laundering, underage sex and sexually transmitted infections, all alleged to be linked to the illegal industry.

There’s no doubt about it, getting into the brothel business isn’t all hot girls and easy money.

In fact, The Daily Planet, Melbourne’s most established and well-known brothel, was put up for sale by administrators a year or so back and this does not come as a surprise to industry insiders, or that many other older legal brothels are feeling the effects of new competition in the Internet Age.

We spoke to the owner of Melbourne’s newest legal brothel – The Cherry Tree Garden – who told us that competition is strong, but that’s good for everyone in the legal brothel business. From a background in international business strategy, he welcomes the challenge. “For us, creating points of difference and offering fabulous service is always the way to go and the legal brothel business is no different than any other business in that respect. It’s doing the basics properly, watching for trends and trying to keep ahead of them, whether that be illegal brothels operating from decrepit milk-bars that have closed down, Internet hook-ups  with the dangers we’ve all seen in newspapers recently, or photoshopped goddesses in Southbank apartments who change addresses more often than the Melbourne weather. New entrants come and go, but the fleet-footed professionals with an entrepreneurial flair will always prosper.”

He told us that the illegal industry was still the biggest challenge facing the business, but there were plans to introduce some bold new offerings in the near future to broaden the appeal of The Cherry Tree Garden to a even wider range of possible customers.

“If we don’t appeal to new customers every day or we lose sight of the regular ones to whom we owe our existence, plus provide great working conditions and opportunities to the beautiful young women who work with us, then we’ll go the way of the dinosaurs,” he said.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising to hear from an industry leader that there’s no special magic about the legal brothel industry, despite the perceptions many of us have. It’s “simply” a case of being tuned to the environment and paying very close attention to the fundamentals.  A message that is writ large in even the best management books for any successful company.



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