Tina Colada works at the Queens gentlemen’s club Starlet’s, where, on any given night, hundreds of fanboys clamor to catch a glimpse of her and shower her with tips. She recently moved to a “nice” home in New Jersey, paid for with her earnings. She’s preparing to start her own real estate business. She travels the world, including trips to South America for extreme plastic surgery.
And she doesn’t even have to get naked.
Meet the city’s new “Hustlers”: strip-club bartenders giving dancers a run for their money — and making enemies of them in the process.
“We make more money than the dancers because we have our own clientele,” Tina said. “We bring in the people who spend money . . . Dancers don’t really do that. They come to work and they dance.”
(Tina declined to reveal the exact earnings for tax reasons but said that she has seen a bartender make $5,000 in a night.)
“The bar has become the new VIP section,” said Maino, a New Jersey-based rapper who is producing a reality show (“A Dolla at a Time”) about the trend of “star-tenders.”
At jiggle joints in the outer boroughs, a new type of social-media-savvy women have become the stars of the show. These bartenders are making thousands of dollars in tips a night and leaving at the end of a shift “with trash bags full of cash,” Maino said.
He credits the shift to Instagram, where bartenders post scantily clad photos of themselves and invite followers to come into the club and interact with them.
“The strippers aren’t going to go on social media to say, ‘Hey, I’m a stripper, come see me at the club,’ because they have families and kids and are going to school,” Maino added.
But slinging drinks doesn’t carry the same stigma as taking off your clothes, he added.
Take Tina, who has 585,000 followers on Instagram.
“I’m basically a club promoter,” she said. “Guys [direct-message] me all the time. I tell them to come to my job. I build friendships with the guys, and I have dated customers.”
Her friend and co-worker Winny Pooh boasts nearly 1 million Instagram followers, lured in by sexy photos and comments like, “Get ya thirst quenched.”
And then there’s Bernice Burgos, who has 5.6 million followers. She used to work as a bartender at Starlet’s and other clubs but made enough money to retire and start a line of pajamas, Bold & Beautiful Sleepwear.
Tina recalled how her first night at Starlet’s, in 2015, changed her life. At the time, she was living modestly in The Bronx and had been working retail gigs at Victoria Secret and Staples. “I made more than both of my checks in one night, so I quit my jobs,” she said.
It has all created a fierce rivalry between dancers and female bartenders. In 2017, several strippers at Queens clubs went on strike, alleging that bartenders were stealing their tips.
But bartenders in outer-borough clubs — which are set up differently than Manhattan mainstays like Sapphire — have the advantage of being the first girls the patrons see.
“At urban clubs, the dancers aren’t working the floor and flirting with the guys,” Tina said, adding that at Starlet’s the bar is directly in front of the stage, creating a buffer. “The girls dance and the guys throw money at them. [In Manhattan] the girls have to sit and wait and have conversations with [customers].”
But to earn the big money and attention, bartenders have to work hard to keep their bodies — often shown off in extremely revealing outfits — in top shape.
“Without our looks, we ain’t making no money,” said an anonymous bartender whom Maino has filmed. “We’ve got to make sure the ass is looking good and our breasts are looking fine. Girls always ask, ‘Who’s your surgeon?’”
Like many of her colleagues, Tina has traveled to South America for plastic surgery, as there are fewer restrictions there for how much fat doctors are allowed to remove.
“I’ve done a fat transfer,” she said. “I did my body in Colombia and my boobs in Miami.”
“This is the culture,” Maino said of the aspirational star-tenders. “They look perfect, like they’ve been drawn. And on social media they look even better. They’re selling the ultimate fantasy.”