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A United States Forces Korea poster, warning soldiers not to engage in prostitution or purchase a "bar fine", here referred to as a "night off".

A bargirl is a woman who is paid to entertain patrons in a bar, either individually or in some cases, as a performer. The exact nature of the entertainment varies widely from place to place; depending on the venue this can be individual entertainment ranging from to light conversation to sexual services, or more public entertainment in the form of Go-go dancing or striptease. Variants on the term include B-girl, hostess, juicy girl, unhappy girl, and guest relations officer.

Bargirls work in various types of bars throughout the world, including strip clubs and regular bars in the U.S., hostess bars in East Asia, go-go bars and "beer bars" in Southeast Asia, dance bars in India, and boliches in Argentina.

Note that a bargirl should not be confused with a barmaid, who serves drinks in a bar but is not expected to entertain customers individually or to dance.

Forms of entertainment provided[edit]

At some venues, bargirls are expected to dance on stage, often in skimpy costumes such as bikinis.

In the U.S., "B-girl" (an abbreviation of "bar girl") is commonly understood to mean a woman who is paid to chat with male patrons and encourage them to buy her drinks.[1] The B-girl is usually served watered-down or non-alcoholic drinks to minimize both the effects of the alcohol and the cost to the bar.[2]

In addition to entertaining customers individually, in some venues (such as strip clubs in the United States, or Go-Go bars in Asia) are expected to dance on stage, often in skimpy costumes such as bikinis, semi-nude, or nude.

Methods of payment[edit]

Bargirls often receive a commission on drinks bought by their customers.[3] Where applicable, they may receive a percentage of the escort fee or bar fine paid by any customer who wishes to take them out of the bar. In other cases, they may have a periodic quota of drinks or bar fines, or both.


Some bargirls also act as prostitutes, either on-site (with the bar effectively acting as a brothel) or by being available through bar fines. This practice is especially common in Southeast Asia.

Where bargirls act as prostitutes, patterns vary widely. Some seek to have as many customers as possible in a given day; these women generally take only "short-time" clients. Others are more selective and accept only one customer per day, taking "long-time" customers overnight or even for a few days following.

Bar fines[edit]

A "bar fine" is a payment made by a customer to the operators of a bar that allows a dancer, hostess, or some other employee of that bar to leave work early, usually in order to accompany the customer outside the bar. Although it is not universal, this practice is frequently associated with venues offering prostitution to foreigners—especially in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand[4][5][6][7] and the Philippines.[8]

Working conditions[edit]

Working conditions vary both between and within countries; even within individual countries, conditions can vary widely between venues. For example, there is significant variation among establishments in Thailand's red-light district near Pattaya Beach; some bars employ relatively well-paid women who live independently from the bar, while others employ lower-paid women who live at the bar in poor conditions.

Legal issues[edit]

In some countries prostitution is treated as a serious crime; in the Philippines it is covered by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.[9] In Thailand, and in many other countries where bar fine prostitution is common, it is technically illegal but widely tolerated.[6]

The Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits American military personnel from purchasing bar fines, which is an offense considered equal to buying the services of a prostitute.[10]

"B-girl activity" in the US[edit]

B-girl activity has declined in the U.S.[11] (so much so that female breakdancers now refer to themselves as B-girls), but it still occurs. Because prostitution is illegal in most parts of the U.S., most B-girls who act as prostitutes are obviously breaking the law. B-girls who are not prostitutes, on the other hand, have historically been seen as perpetrating a kind of fraud: holding out the unspoken promise of sexual favors in return for drinks, and then reneging. For this reason, even the practice of accepting drinks for pay is specifically outlawed in many localities.[12]

Bars have been raided and closed down for "B-girl activity."[13] In one 1962 case, nightclub owners suspected of having ties to a Chicago crime syndicate were brought before the Senate Rackets Committee. The Boston Globe reported that "one of [the syndicate's] rackets, according to testimony, is the operation of cheap nightclubs which use B-girls to solicit watered-down drinks at high prices from customers, or even engage in prostitution with them."[14]

Soliciting drinks can involve an element of trickery that goes beyond mere flirtation. It was once common for modestly dressed B-girls to pose as secretaries who had stopped at the bar for a drink on their way home from work. Like a good salesperson, an experienced B-girl knew how to direct the conversation and keep the drinks coming. The male customer, under the impression that he had found a "date" for the evening, would buy her one expensive drink after another, only to be jilted afterwards.[2]

In 2014, city officials in Kenner, Louisiana, where the practice is illegal, replaced the word "B-girl" with "B-drinker" in their liquor laws to avoid gender discrimination.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

Marilyn Monroe was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her role as a B-girl in Bus Stop (1956). In the film, Monroe's character, Chérie, consumes four tea-and-sodas before her companion catches on.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "B-girl". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Sismondo, Christine (2011). America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. Oxford University Press. p. 244. ISBN 9780199752935. 
  3. ^ Lighter, J.E., ed. (1994). Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. p. 139. ISBN 978-0394544274. B-girl: a woman employed by a bar, nightclub or the like, to act as a companion to male customers and to induce them to buy drinks, and usually paid a percentage of what the customers spend. 
  4. ^ "Internet Archive copy of Stickman's guide to Naughty Nightlife in Bangkok". Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Askew, Marc. Bangkok: Place, practice and representation. Chapter 9: Sex workers in Bangkok - Refashioning female identities in the global pleasure space (PDF). Retrieved 6 Jan 2015. 
  7. ^ Prostitution in Thailand#Bars catering to foreigners
  8. ^
  9. ^ Republic Act 9208. Chan Robles Virtual Law Library. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  10. ^ See image included on this page;
    A United States Forces Korea poster, warning soldiers not to engage in prostitution or purchase a "bar fine", here referred to as a "night off".
  11. ^ "B-Girls Fading Attraction in Bars Throughout U.S." (PDF). Schenectady Gazette. 1954. 
  12. ^ a b Quinlan, Adriane (March 18, 2014). "In Kenner, B-drinkers will still be illegal, but don't call them girls". The Times-Picayune. 
  13. ^ "Peppermint Lounge's New Owner Gets OK". The Boston Globe. January 28, 1966. 
  14. ^ Rogers, Warren (June 15, 1962). "Capone Heirs Defy Senate B-Girl Probe". The Boston Globe. 
  15. ^ Littauer, Amanda (April 2003). "The B-Girl Evil: Bureaucracy, Sexuality, and the Menace of Barroom Vice in Postwar California". Journal of the History of Sexuality 12: 171–204. doi:10.1353/sex.2003.0087. 

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