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Mail on Sunday reporters reveal how Mayfair nightclubs use apps to vet young women for older men 

DRESSED UP: Molly, left, and Natasha prepare for an uncomfortable night out in London’s West End clubs

Midnight is approaching and, through the haze and the thumping bass, we are ushered to our seats at one of Mayfair’s most exclusive nightclubs. It’s the sort of place where men pay up to £1,500 for a table but women – or at least women deemed attractive enough – can get in for free.

We are installed in a dark and claustrophobic corner, at a table full of men, mostly much older. Without so much as a hello, they pour us big drinks that are virtually 100 per cent vodka.

Within moments, and without anything by way of small talk, one of the men starts entwining his foot with mine [Natasha’s]. His arm is around me, pulling at my waist, and then he’s stroking my back. He’s drunk, very drunk, and as he leans in, it’s clear what he wants. What he thinks he is entitled to…

Welcome to London’s high-end nightlife, a world that projects an image of decadence and glamour burnished by the celebrities so often seen in the clubs – but which has a decidedly unsavoury underbelly. A Mail on Sunday undercover investigation today reveals how businesses use young and impressionable women as little more than bait to lure high-spending men wanting attractive company – and often more.

DRESSED UP: Molly, left, and Natasha prepare for an uncomfortable night out in London’s West End clubs

DRESSED UP: Molly, left, and Natasha prepare for an uncomfortable night out in London’s West End clubs

It would be naive to think nightclubs haven’t used such tactics for years, with bouncers picking favoured women out of the queues for instant entry. But although the post-MeToo world is supposedly more sensitive to exploitation and power dynamics, today’s entertainment world, driven by technology and the prospect of huge profits, is far more cynical – and sinister – than a doorman’s ad-hoc admissions policy. And quite probably illegal, too.

Key to this world are nebulous middlemen called promoters who are paid a bounty for each woman they can get into the venues. They scour social media for likely candidates, and use apps to vet them.

Our investigation found that young women are lured into the clubs with the promise of free entry and complimentary drinks on an exclusive guest list. But once inside, they are told where to sit, and with whom, and encouraged to drink liberally.

We visited three leading clubs and were left feeling exploited and vulnerable. At one club, Wyld, a punter boasted to us: ‘We pay £2,000 a week to meet fit girls like you.’ Another slipped a waiter £50 and demanded he ‘bring more girls over’.

Their creepy belief that they can have women on order is perhaps understandable given that promoters told our male undercover reporters that if they paid hundreds of pounds for entry, girls would be available for an ‘after party’ with them.

One promoter told us he was paid about £20 for each female customer he gets into the club. Some of his work involves approaching women on websites such as Instagram, but an app called MyClub has vastly streamlined the vetting process for him.

For revellers, the app is described as ‘the go-to platform to get yourself booked into nightclubs’. Anyone wanting entry into a venue, male or female, has to upload four images – two selfies and two full-length. If the promoter is impressed, the user is told they can join the free guest list.

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But men are routinely turned down, allowed in only if they pay the hefty admission charges. MyClub lists the base price for a VIP table at any of the Mayfair clubs we visited as £1,500. We – as two women in our 20s – applied to join the free guest list at two London clubs: Wyld in Mayfair and Cirque Le Soir, just off Carnaby Street in Soho. Within minutes of uploading our pictures, our applications were accepted.

Our reporter was groped in Wyld

Our reporter sat among erotic dancers in Cirque Le Soir

Unsavoury underbelly: Our reporter was groped in Wyld, and sat among erotic dancers in Cirque Le Soir

But our male colleagues were declined within seconds. When one asked the promoter why he was rejected, he was told: ‘We don’t accept guys on the guest list. Any guys that request are automatically rejected. We only accept paid table bookings [for men].’

A second male reporter was told: ‘I can get you in with £800 on a table. Bottle of vodka and all the mixers included. The club will be 80 per cent girls. I can send groups of girls to your table.’

Another male journalist was quoted a £1,000 minimum spend. He asked whether there would be girls at the table and if they would be available for an after party, as £1,000 was a lot to spend ‘not to pull’. The promoter replied: ‘There are lots of girls at Wyld. That won’t be an issue.’

What we found inside the club was at odds with its woke image. Its website boasts that it is a ‘forward-thinking’ venue that’s won praise for making a ‘positive impact on nature and society’. It bans single-use plastics and offers punters the chance to ‘buy a bottle, plant a tree’ – although with bottles of wine priced between £340 and £22,000, there should be plenty of profit margin to cover a sapling.

Once inside, we were seated with a group of men who said they were in their late 40s, and who flaunted their wealth as a sign of virility. They also seemed to enjoy the age gap. When we asked them how long they had known each other, they replied: ‘I’d imagine twice as long as you’ve been alive.’

After an hour, we were asked to join another VIP area hosted by men who claimed to be ‘social-media stars’ – although we could subsequently find no trace of this online.

A man sat down next to one of us and, without introducing himself or engaging in conversation, started making inappropriate physical contact. When his groping went unreciprocated, he simply moved on to his next target.

After being told of the incident, Wyld said they would investigate, and were always prepared to go back through CCTV to see if they could identify an assailant.

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We also visited the burlesque-inspired Cirque Le Soir, which has previously been frequented by model Cara Delevingne, singer Rihanna and Princess Eugenie.

We found the atmosphere more X-rated than A-list. A male promoter escorted us past an array of adult toys and inflatable sex dolls, and later female dancers performed erotic dances in suggestive outfits.

One promoter told us he was paid about £20 for each female customer he gets into the club. Some of his work involves approaching women on websites such as Instagram, but an app called MyClub has vastly streamlined the vetting process for him

One promoter told us he was paid about £20 for each female customer he gets into the club. Some of his work involves approaching women on websites such as Instagram, but an app called MyClub has vastly streamlined the vetting process for him

Around the VIP table sat about 50 girls, all in heels, mini-dresses and fake eyelashes, waiting for the men who had paid for the table to arrive. Sometimes Cirque Le Soir’s bills can be dizzying, with reports that one high-roller ran up a £102,000 tab.

Later, a waiter asked us to join another, more exclusive VIP table after the men there had requested our company. We were strongly encouraged to drink several glasses of champagne, despite insisting we had had enough. ‘It’s my job to get rid of this champagne, so drink up,’ the waiter told us.

Promoters working for Cirque Le Soir – whose founder is due to face charges of a bribery conspiracy involving local police next year – have sometimes been blatant about who they are looking for.

How the app picks and rejects men

All three clubs we visited are on the MyClub app, which our reporters were asked to download if they wanted to secure guest list tickets. 

Users have to set up a profile, including four photos, then select the club they want and choose a ticket, which allows them to be ‘hosted at VIP table’. This is free.

You then have to wait until your request is accepted by a promoter (always male, in our reporters’ experience). Once accepted, you are given details to give to door staff on the night.

Our male reporters were rejected for guest list tickets and were instead told to book and pay for a table.

APPROVED: The images our two reporters uploaded to the MyClub app

APPROVED: The images our two reporters uploaded to the MyClub app

It has previously been reported that people on one VIP list were warned: ‘Do not bring any big/fat girls/guys.’ Girls were also told to ‘dress glamorous/hot’. The club denied it was their policy.

The third club we visited was Libertine in Soho, whose celebrity clientele has included models Kate Moss and Gigi Hadid, Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio, sprinter Usain Bolt and former One Direction stars Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson. But it has also previously attracted unwanted headlines after one woman, Bobbi Jo Goldsmith, said she and her nine friends were asked to leave the queue because they were ‘too big’ and it wasn’t the ‘look the club wanted’.

At the time, in 2016, Libertine denied such discrimination was its policy.

We secured entry there via a promoter on Instagram, and on arrival were ushered to a VIP table where we were poured vodka-cranberry cocktails.

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The promoter was looking after a group of five men who had paid £5,000 for their table – and we felt very much like part of their all-inclusive package.

We joined a group of women standing around the table while the men partied on elevated velvet banquettes. Perhaps it’s no coincidence the women all looked very similar, as one website advises them: ‘The secret for ladies’ dress code at Libertine is to look sexy, sophisticated and also show you made some effort. Always remember to look seductive and put on some make-up.’

Again, the men seemed to flaunt their money, ordering bottles of champagne topped with fizzling sparklers.

Caroline Nokes MP, who chairs the Commons’ Women and Equalities Select Committee, reproved the way women were being treated by the clubs.

She said: ‘This really is hideously exploitative. Young women are being judged on their looks and then being placed in an environment where men have paid to be.

‘I would like to think as a society we can do better than this, and that licensing authorities would look really unfavourably on these sorts of policies, especially when there are indications that young women can expect to receive free drinks, potentially leaving them very vulnerable.’

And while our experience at the clubs was unedifying, it may also be illegal. Simon Horsfield, a lawyer specialising in discrimination law at Horsfield Menzies, said: ‘Charging men to enter the club but inviting women to enter for free amounts to unlawful sex discrimination. The club owners can’t escape liability here by blaming this practice on the promoters. The promoters are acting on behalf of the clubs and, as such, the clubs are accountable in the eyes of the law for the promoters’ actions, even if they profess to be unaware of what the promoters are doing.’

David Sillitoe, a partner at Robinson Ralph solicitors, agreed. He said: ‘The treatment experienced by your male reporters appears to be a prime example of direct discrimination because of sex by a service provider – the nightclub. It cannot be justified.’

Jess Phillips MP, Shadow Minister for Domestic Abuse and Safeguarding, added: ‘This is a disgraceful report of clearly exploitative and likely unlawful practices.

‘Councils should urgently investigate and ensure businesses in the night-time economy are protecting women. If businesses are putting women at risk, action should be taken against them.’

And Westminster City Council’s deputy leader, Aicha Less, said: ‘We are very concerned by the issues that have been raised about these nightclubs.

‘Based on what The Mail on Sunday has told us, we will be seeking assurances from these venues that women and male customers are treated the same way and in accordance with licensing conditions.’

The Wyld club said: ‘We work to create a positive and inclusive environment for all guests. Third-party promoters encourage guests, both male and female, to attend the venue. We have a strict code of conduct for promoters and any complaints will be investigated thoroughly.’

Neither Cirque Le Soir nor Libertine responded to a request for comment.

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