Liverpool mum who ‘accidentally’ became a strip club owner after being the ‘quietest girl at school’

A mum of four has attributed her desire for success to becoming a young mum.

Amy Gwnn, 34, is the driving force behind popular strip club, Rude, based in Liverpool’s city centre.

The former model was training to be an accountant when she embarked on a career change that altered the course of her life. 11 years after Rude’s opening, the club – and Amy – continue to thrive.

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Of her journey to becoming a nightclub owner, Amy told the ECHO: “It was very much accidentally, I just fell into it. My now husband had always worked in the clubbing industry and had all the links to the club world. I’d previously worked as a model so I had a lot of contacts and knew a lot of girls but I’d never danced or been in a strip club and I had those preconceptions about what it was.

“It’s kind of like the unknown, which is why I’ve been so determined to change peoples mindset because I know first hand what it’s like to have that negative outlook.”

Amy’s ‘accidental’ venture into running a strip club began while she was training to be an accountant and fell pregnant with her first child.

The business owner said: “I was training to be an accountant and studying business studies which is obviously very, very different to what I’m doing now but it was good because it gave me some experience with running a business and handling accounts.

“Then I fell pregnant at 21 and my husband’s DJ work was coming to an end and we just panicked, looking for something to do and all he knew was clubs and anything to do with clubs.

“I was on maternity leave and he came to me and said he’d been told if you open a strip club, you can make a lot of money but I wasn’t feeling my best, I’d gone from modelling and being in front of a camera, to losing that, feeling insecure in myself and just being a mum. I thought I was going to have to face all these gorgeous girls with big boobs and tiny waists but it wasn’t like that.

“We decided to give it a go. I can remember sitting down and thinking, ‘what are we going to call it?’ and we had the smallest amount of money to spend on it because we were saving for a house so we bought the club with our deposit for a house.

“Because we put everything we had into it, it had to work. I say to the girls who come to me for advice, it’s about the consistency and hunger – I just had this baby, what little bit of money we had, we’d put into this and I had to make this work.”

A club with a ‘woman’s touch’

Amy, who is mum to Dolly, 12; Lilly, 10; Esmae, six and Elsie, four, “jumped in at the deep end” after buying the club. With zero experience even as a patron at a strip club, she had to learn fast – but her lack of experience turned out to be a “blessing in disguise”.

She said: “I arranged for five girls to come and audition but I didn’t know what to look for because I’d never been to a strip club but it was a blessing in disguise because it became a strip club with a woman’s touch.

“I get a lot of men coming to me saying they can really see that a woman is running this club, so as daunting as it was, it was actually a blessing I’d never been to a strip club because I did it my way. I suppose I’d have just followed suit otherwise.

Amy's club Rude has been open for 11 years
Amy’s club Rude has been open for 11 years
(Image: Amy Gwynn)

“I was surprised by the girls’ auditions because they were all so experienced but again, I just threw myself in at the deep end. I was 22 at the time and the dancers completely ruled me and I had to tame these experienced dancers when I didn’t know what I was doing.

“I got so many things wrong but I corrected it as I went. I didn’t go back to my finance job, I decided if I could work four nights a week, I could save on childcare costs because I wouldn’t have to put Dolly in nursery. I was going to stick at it for a year and try and save money and 11 years later, I’m running it.

“People who I went to school with are so shocked and can’t believe what my job is because I was the quietest girl at school.”

‘I wanted to do everything at once’

Amy was prepared to work hard so the club could succeed but, loving the idea of the big, happy family to come home to, she still wanted to have more children.

Amy, from Aigburth, said the club allowed her to get the best of both worlds. She continued: “I just followed with it and it enabled me then to have another child.

“I felt really hungry, I wanted to do everything at once – work, have the babies. I felt like I was constantly on a timescale and my whole 20s feels like a blur because it was just work and raising a family but then having Rude allowed me to do that, I could have the kids and the business.

“The struggles I would face through pregnancy, I had all these dancers I could share it with and they understood and would support me.”

A new venue

Rude moved in 2016 because the team “outgrew the building” it started in and took up residence at a larger site on Duke Street, where is is known and loved today.

Amy said: “The demand was so big. We had footballers coming in and everything.

“Then in 2016, we found out the landlord wanted to convert the building into flats and I was devastated but it took us two years and we managed to secure the building over the road, which was the Old Society building – it’s beautiful and it’s huge. I never thought we’d be granted a license for a lap dancing club but we got it.

“Inside, it’s the largest strip club in the UK in terms of actual space. It took me seven years of experience and learning everything from scratch, which was super hard but it was actually the best thing because I learnt how to do it my way and I had all these ideas in the smaller first venue and I could see there was demand for a high end club that wasn’t offered in Liverpool and I wanted to do it but I couldn’t at first.

Amy celebrating her birthday with her daughters
Amy celebrating her birthday with her daughters
(Image: Amy Gwynn)

“I remember reading a quote and it really stuck with me, it was ‘work every day like someone is working 24 hours to take it away from you’ and I lived by that and kept in that mindset to get to where I needed to be.

“When I moved to the Old Society building, I had all these ideas for how it could look. I spotted the balcony and made it the VIP floor but you’re not enclosed, you can see down into the rest of the club and you can also see up into there. We got a private bar up there too, but we did it all gradually – I could have blown millions but we had to make the money stretch.

“There was a lot of hype and I was getting more girls in and everything I was earning, I was putting it back into the club so we could do what we wanted to do with it. We still had to work to balance the cash flow but we had to take it slow – I’ve worked from nothing, I’m not a millionaire so we had to do it gradually.”

‘We needed to make a stand’

Amy was keen to ensure Rude operated at a higher standard expected of strip clubs and she wanted to ensure her dancers had a glamorous space to get ready in.

She said: “For me, moving into Society, the first thing I asked to see when I first viewed it was the girls’ toilets. They had this mirrored corridor and I had this vision of wanting to have a huge changing rooms for the girls. I knew there was a little stigma around dancers and I wanted to make a stand and make sure people knew these girls are the nicest girls you’ll ever meet, they have helped me more in my life than I’ve helped them.

“I needed to show how strongly I feel for these girls and the focus in strip clubs has always been on Front of House and the girls would just have to get changed in the toilets. In order to get the best girls and have the best reputation, we needed excellent back of house facilities, too. We needed to make a stand. I was like, ‘I can’t have this building and not do something with the girls’ toilets’.

“Doing the club up consumed my life. I hired an interior designer in 2018, I told her I wanted a dressing room, a makeup room, everything. The makeup room is the most Instagrammable spot, it’s where all the girls take their selfies.

“Now, Rude is renowned for its dressing rooms and I hope other clubs follow suit. The girls walk in and feel comfortable.

“I remember my dad saying, ‘why you throwing all this money at something nobody is going to see’ but the proof is in the pudding. If you’ve got a nice workspace and you feel appreciated, it makes your work life a lot more enjoyable.”

Amy added: “It’s like I have a double life. I’m 34, I’m facing new challenges as a woman and it’s down to the girls that I’ve been able to progress as much as I can, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.

“I always laugh and say, ‘I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up’ because this doesn’t feel like a job. The girls keep me young. I’m always winding Dolly up [her daughter], saying how cool I am because the dancers keep me young.”

Changing perceptions

Over Rude’s 11 year history, Amy has welcomed all sorts of customers, from footballers to hen parties – and she believes the perception of strip clubs is changing.

She said: “When we started, there were no Instagram accounts of strip clubs. I wanted to glamorise dancing and let people know it’s not something you should be ashamed of. We get a lot of women and couples coming in now, we’re changing the perceptions.

“We used to think it was somewhere we, as women, weren’t allowed to go and see and we don’t know what happened and we’d think it was full of strippers stealing our men’s money but since I’ve come out and shown it’s really not like that at all, we get so many hen parties coming in now and they’re the best customers.

“The girls always say, ‘we’re here for the applause’ and girls coming in as customers give you applause. Women are able to come in and feel comfortable. I think sexual entertainment does need to be normalised because it’s never something that’s going to go away.

“I love watching the stage shows because it’s fantastic to watch a woman embracing herself and having that confidence and you’re not going to get that anywhere else.”

‘I couldn’t stand in a playground and have those conversations’

Amy is grateful for the judgement-free attitude that’s been created at Rude.

She said: “There’s nothing more liberating than being able to stand there and talk to a naked woman [in the changing rooms] and it’s just so honest and normal.

“It’s wonderful to be able to go in and I know if there’s any problem in my life, I can go in those changing rooms and there’s no judgement whatsoever and we can talk about anything – I couldn’t stand in a playground and have those conversations.”

Amy credits her determination to succeed to becoming a mum.

She added: “Having those babies made me hungrier, it had to work, I had mouths to feed. I don’t think I’d have been as hungry to do it if I weren’t a mum, that pushed me a lot more.

“I don’t think I’d have been as successful in the club if I didn’t have a big family – the club had to work to enable me to have the big family that I wanted. I wanted it all.

“I’ve put my everything into this club, it means so much to me – I could talk about it for hours.”

Rude is based at 64 Duke Street, L1 5AA.

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