Young women stand in the doorway of the Casino de Venise in the gold-mining settlement of Napoleon Hill at Ahaura, 35 kilometres north-east of Greymouth. Many single women earned their living in mining settlements selling alcohol and dancing with miners. A dancer was expected to move from one digger to the next, spinning him round the room and encouraging him to purchase a drink for himself and one for her. Dancers and barmaids on the West Coast in the mid-1860s often earned up to £6 weekly, with board, and sometimes received gifts of gold from the miners.
Bars in gold-mining settlements often sold both sex and alcohol, and the licences of hotel owners were sometimes revoked because the hotels operated as brothels. Prostitutes working out of bars, dance halls and hotels often had to give the brothel- or bar-owner a share of their earnings, and sometimes set up their own bars and hotels. Before the Police Offences Act 1884, prostitution was within the law, but some provincial and city bylaws made it illegal to run a brothel. Soliciting in a public place (which included bars and dance halls) often led to charges of vagrancy, drunkenness or disorderly behaviour under the Vagrants Act 1866.
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