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Community board had urged Platinum Pleasures be denied
Representatives of Community Board 2 are furious that state authorities have agreed to grant a liquor license to the owner of Platinum Pleasures, a topless bar set to open soon on Lafayette Ave., despite fierce opposition from board members, community residents and businesses.
The board, which represents Hunts Point and Longwood has pressed the State Liquor Authority in recent months to deny club owners’ applications for licenses to sell booze, arguing the profusion of gentlemens clubs in the neighborhood brings violent crime and encourages prostitution, while discouraging wholesome businesses from opening.
The state agency’s three-member panel “doesn’t understand the struggles of having to live with these establishments right next door,” said the community board’s district manager, Rafael Salamanca, who pointed out the bar is within a few hundred feet of several schools.
Board members, elected officials and nearby businesses had urged the Liquor Authority to deny club owner Felix Cuesta’s request to open the new bar in the same space formerly occupied by another topless cabaret, the Badabing club. They said the Badabing had been the site of shootings and stabbings, and pointed to prostitution and to the sale of alcohol to minors and predicted the problems would persist at Platinum Pleasures, despite the new ownership and the new name.
Cuesta bought the space, just a few short steps east of the Bruckner Expressway, in late 2009, but the bar has been closed for renovations since then.
In an open letter responding to the state’s decision, Salamanca urged residents and community groups to continue pressuring the state to deny liquor licenses for clubs, despite the setback.
Club Heat and Club 11, two other strip clubs east of the Bruckner, are already operating with liquor licenses, within a mile of Platinum Pleasures. Other adult bars, such as the King of Clubs on Oak Point Ave. and El Coche on Hunts Point Ave., remain closed while the owners await the state’s decision on their liquor license applications.
Cuesta said he would strive to keep the problems that surfaced at BadaBing from recurring.
“I would cooperate with whatever they wanted because I do want to help the community. If they wanted me to hire ex-cops as security, I would,” he said.
But a representative from Taconic Investment Partners LLC, which in 2007 purchased the landmark BankNote building one block away, said his company doesn’t want to see the adult bar debut at all, even with enhanced security measures.
“Back when Badabing was open, the BankNote was nothing like it looked now and didn’t attract the same sort of tenants,” said Peter Febo, Taconic’s Senior Vice President. In addition to serving as headquarters for Bronx Congressman Jose E. Serrano, the massive building houses community organizations such as Sustainable South Bronx, the Legal Aid Society, the Hunts Point Alliance for Children, and others. In addition, plans are underway for the city’s Human Resources Administration to move a social services operation that would serve thousands of people a week into the building.
“Most businesses are not nine-to-five anymore, and they’re going to be concerned when their employees are leaving,” said Febo.
A spate of violent incidents at Club Heat in recent months has further stoked community concern, and some residents and police see the opening of Platinum Pleasures as yet another danger they will have to contend with.
But despite local efforts to reform Hunts Point’s image as a seedy backwater full of prostitutes and strip clubs, in part by keeping topless bars out, officials acknowledge the clubs are legal, and community opposition only goes so far in influencing the state’s granting of liquor licenses.
Liquor Authority representative William Crowley said that although community input is taken into consideration, the agency is unlikely to deny a bar’s renewal request if it has no history of violations. Neighborhood opposition is more heavily weighed for clubs that are yet to open, he said, adding no local opposition was voiced when Cuesta first applied for the permit two years ago.
Philip Rivera, commanding officer of the 41st Precinct, said another gentlemens club in the area would further strain the NYPD’s resources, as officers are typically stationed near clubs on weekends and during the wee hours of the night when customers are leaving.
“Our resources are not infinite, and this affects our abilities to patrol proactively in the rest of the neighborhood,” said Rivera.