Police and community board say one more club is one too many
By Jeanmarie Evelly
The Player’s Club, a strip club tucked into an industrial corner of Hunts Point near the food distribution center on Randall Avenue, developed a reputation among many residents as an unseemly sort of place that brought down the neighborhood’s reputation.
The club re-opened in May as Club 11. The new owners say they want it to be seen as an upscale adult entertainment club that serves food and liquor, and as a good neighbor.
But some members of the community are bristling that strip clubs persist in a community that has gotten a bad rap for its seedy side. The detractors are not convinced by the new management’s promises of a more tightly run operation.
“We’ve been working very hard to get rid of that HBO special from everybody’s mind,” said Ada Haddock, community affairs officer for the 41st Precinct, referring to the well-known documentary “Hookers at the Point.”
“You say you’re from the Point and they don’t think the Bank Note building, they don’t think about the great parks that we have,” she continued. “It’s been an uphill battle.”
Adult clubs have been a problem for the precinct for years, Haddock said, adding that the Player’s Club had numerous violations for serving drinks to underage patrons and for employing underage dancers.
Connie Pacheco, who has spent much of her career counseling women and adolescents in the South Bronx, has been strongly opposed to the new club. Young women who work at such places see the job as a way to make quick money, and as a safer alternative to being on the streets, Pacheco said.
“They get these jobs, they promise them the world,” she said. “The women become victims of this kind of exploitation.”
Pacheco said that even the best-run clubs eventually have issues with drug use, sex and violence.
“You can give them a new name, a new look, but you know it’s going to be the same thing,” she said. “It’s not good for the community, and it’s not good for the women.”
The club’s management, however, insist that comments like that unfairly stigmatize what they insist is a legitimate business, posing no more of a threat than any other licensed bar or club that serves alcohol.
“There are several liquor establishments in the area,” said manager Leslie Quaynor. “Crime or violence isn’t attributed to an adult entertainment business.”
Quaynor said Club 11 is taking strides to make safety a priority, by hiring a highly-trained security staff that will be overseen by a retired NYPD detective. In addition, the new owners say they will install metal detectors and an ID scanning machine, enforce a dress code, and impose a 23-and-over age requirement.
“Other businesses, they take shortcuts,” Quaynor said. “That’s the difference between this establishment.”
Quaynor and the club’s owner, Patrick Alyee, came before Community Board 2 in May to ask the board to back them with a letter of support to accompany their application for a cabaret license to the city Department of Consumers Affairs. The license is required for any city establishment that hires dancers and sells food and liquor.
But despite the owners’ efforts to seek local acceptance, both the community board and the 41st Precinct opposed the club’s application.
“Our interest is everybody’s safety,” said Officer Haddock. “It’s just a bad combination for more disputes, more fights.”
John Robert, District Manager for Community Board 2, said Hunts Point has three other strip clubs already.
“The peninsula of Hunts Point is a little more than a square mile. Once we are allowed to have four adult clubs, it’s a bit much,” he said.
Robert added that while he understands the owner’s point of view, the club’s clientele poses an inherent risk to the community.
“Our argument is they can only control their environment, what’s happening inside their building. When people leave their club, they’re intoxicated, they get into cars, they have accidents, they start looking for prostitutes,” he said. “No matter how well the business is run, they still attract that kind of thing.”
Community board and police approval are not mandatory, however, for clubs to obtain licenses from the city. The Dept. of Consumer Affairs website explains that the opinions of the board and police are for “information purposes, which will be taken into consideration.”
Only the Department of Buildings and the Fire Department have the power to turn down a license application, usually on the basis of code violations.
Although the club doesn’t need the board’s approval to operate, Quaynor says it’s important for the new regime at Club 11 to start off on good terms with the community.
“We’ll work towards that, to prove that this business is a valid business,” he said.
“The Community Board’s preference is to allow businesses to flourish in the area, and they have to give us a chance, to allow us to flourish.”
A version of this article appeared in the August edition of the Hunts Point Express.