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Infamous Copacabana Nightclub Shutting Down Posted by on Mar 7, 2008 in Brazilian News

The Rio de Janeiro city government announced recently that it is shutting down one of the city’s most infamous nightclubs, “Help” in Copacabana, known for rampant prostitution and to a lesser degree, drug trafficking.

Though the club used to be a hot spot for middle and upper class Cariocas in the 1980s, it gradually transformed into a club for tourists and prostitutes in the 1990s. Women pay the entrance fee of R$23 and can earn up to 20 times more in one night. One prostitute claimed she made R$2,000 during Carnival alone.

Prices, however, vary by nationality. Prostitutes typically charge R$200 to Argentines, while Swiss tourists pay up to R$500. Sometimes, though not frequently, prostitutes go abroad to live with their clients, usually in Europe, and have come to be known as “Ronaldinhas.”

But this spot frequented by the city’s prostitutes will soon be closing. The government’s plan is to convert the space into the Museu da Imagem e do Som (the Museum of Image and Sound). Supporters of the plan applauded the government for finally making the move to get rid of the club.

However, in an article featured in Globo’s weekend magazine, Revista, several groups are featured that actually are against shutting down the nightclub.

First, the NGO A DaVida, a group that defends prostitutes’ rights, claims that the nightclub is actually a safer venue for prostitutes to make money, without any middlemen or bosses who could exploit them. In Brazil, prostitution is in fact legal, but prostitutes’ exploração (exploitation) is not.

Next, an American anthropologist who lives in Rio with his Brazilian wife has performed studies and interviews at the club, and also argues that the club is a place for “safe” prostitution. He also claims it is one of the few places where women have the ability to pick and chose their own clients.

But despite their arguments, it seems the government has the last word, and the future of Copa’s working women is unclear.

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  1. Manfred Deichmann:

    I am of German origin and living in Rio de Janeiro for for 17 years (1982 to 1990 and 2001 to 2008). I have frequented the HELP night-club / disco quite often – not necessarily to pick up a girl, but also to dance and converse with people.

    Having been assaulted several times on the roads in Rio in the past and having not always been treaded exactly respectfully in typical Brazilian clubs, I found the HELP-club always as a safe and friendly place for me with no problems within it – and well dressed and well behaved tourists and Brazilian women (a lot of them have lived in Europe / some have even married Europeans and Americans): of course mainly – not exclusively – prostitutes.

    Likewise the large restaurant in front of the “HELP” night-club seats normally quite well-behaved and well dressed tourists and Brazilians to make contact with each other.

    I have no idea, why the governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, seems to be so really obsessed to close down the HELP club. What is being gained by that? What problem is the HELP club causing to whom?

    The HELP-club is not a noisy place (there is no music outside of it audible on the road)and to it’s neighbors, also the restaurant in front of it is quiet and well behaved – actually I have never seen any aggressive behavior in it).

    Besides of that, one finds a lot of street-walking prostitutes at the whole Avenida Atlantica at the Copacabana (who approach people occasionally in a quite distasteful manner)- but not in front of the HELP club. So, where is the problem with the HELP club for Sr. Cabral?

    The tourism in Rio de Janeiro has been shrinking constantly in the past due to the constant danger of tourists to be assaulted on the road. HELP and it’s close vicinity I do consider as quite safe, with police-cars stationed directly in front of it – closing it down means: a lot of tourists will walk at night-time on the roads in the future – visiting smaller night-clubs and questionable places, where the “girls” can be easier explored and controlled by their owners – and tourists easier be robbed.
    Manfred Deichmann

  2. Isabella:

    Hi Rachel,

    eu frequentei a HELP quando foi inaugurada. Se não me engano, no verão de 1985. Depois soube que a frequencia havia mudado.

    Discordo do comentário acima. Um local que promove o linocínio, tb promove o tráfico de drogas e a corrupção. Males que o Brasil, há muito tempo, está precisando erradicar!

  3. dani:

    it’s sad.it’s a good place nice girls good music,good security! without it copa will not be the same.lots of man from all over the world found their a liitle romans for one night,one week or more.my heart is with the beautifull poor girls that now will be in danger of the “gigolos”-the pimps.i had in this place a good times…will remember that place for ever!
    glusia,elaine,juliana,e especialmente ADRIANA -amo voces minhas lindas…

  4. Hans from NORWAY:

    I live there for almost a year in 1986 and then it was the worlds hottest nightclub of them all, and I have been on many of them around the world.
    Please dont shut it down it make me come back again.

  5. Ron XXX:

    I agree with a number of comments above. I only had fun. Loved sitting out front. I have been to quite a few barrios in Minas, where I now reside, and saw way more violence. If someone knows an alternative spot near Copa,Ipanema,….please inform.

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