Battle against strip clubs continues

Photo by Sarah Grile

Mr. Wedge's on Hunts Point Avenue.

Liquor Authority denies license to King of Clubs

Plans to open a new strip club on Oak Point Avenue were the last straw, Community Board 2 decided in December. Declaring they were fed up with the neighborhood’s reputation as a place where sex is for sale, the board voted last December to urge the State Liquor Authority to deny King of Clubs a license.

Its new get-tough attitude appears to be paying off.

The SLA complied, and the space on Oak Point Avenue that was to have housed King of Clubs remains vacant.

Emboldened by its success, last spring the community board extended its concern to bars, persuading the SLA to deny a license to Aventura Sports Bar, which was seeking to open on Westchester Avenue. The community board said there were already too many saloons on the block.

And the board’s stance has gotten the attention of bar owners. According to Rafael Salamanca, the community board’s district manager, they now come to the board before applying for a new license or a renewal, a new requirement implemented by the community board.

New rules for dancers

When Mr. Wedge changed from a topless to a bikini bar, it put out the call for new dancers. Click the image to read the sign.

Most recently, the board turned down the request of Alfred Rivera, owner of Mr. Wedge on Hunts Point Avenue. Board members at the Sept. 14 meeting said Rivera employed an unlicensed security guard and charged that a supervisor had touched a female employee inappropriately.

Rivera denies the accusations, voicing his support in both his supervisor and his security guard.

Things don’t always work out the way the board hopes they will, however. Salamanca calls the opening of Club 11 on Randall Avenue two years ago, despite the opposition of the board and the 41st Precinct a setback.

The SLA takes community opposition seriously, said the agency’s spokesman William Crowley.  While most applications are reviewed only at the staff level, he said, when a community board expresses concern, the three-member board of the SLA votes on the application, and these board meeting can be viewed via webcast on the SLA’s website.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged, the SLA board approves most applications. New licenses are more likely to be turned down than renewals, Crowley said.

The board wants local business to be responsible for “the product they put out and their role in the community,” said Maria Torres, head of the economic development committee.

Robert Crespom a member of Community Board 2, also added he wants owners to know if “they are truthful and show that they want to be a working part of the community,” then the Community board will not stand in the way of them running their business.

Asking bar and club owners to present themselves before the board when their liquor license is up for renewal is a part of creating a new culture of accountability agreed Salamanca, who said he wants owners to know if they are not running their businesses respectably that they will be “brought to the table.”

As an example, he said that Rivera, the proprietor of Mr. Wedge now checks in with the community board. As a result, although the board turned down Rivera’s request for a letter of support, it decided not to oppose his application for a license renewal.

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