Red Hook Carbaret Will Offer Pole Dancing But No Stripping, Owner Says

By Alan Neuhauser on October 4, 2012 6:52am 

RED HOOK — The stripper poles will stay put, but the dancers will keep their clothes on.

The general manager of Red Hook's proposed Con Amore Cabaret has promised to keep his club upscale after community concerns that it would be just a smutty strip joint.

"No. No. No. No nudity. No topless," said Earl Dicks, 57, who hopes to open the club with his wife of 24 years, Cynthia Thomas-Dicks.

"We want to do an entertainment venue — live jazz, live comedy, live R&B, birthday parties on the weekend."

Con Amore, located at 18 Commerce St. near warehouses and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, would become the property's fourth nightspot in 11 years if its liquor license application is recommended for approval by the Brooklyn Community Board 6 Licenses Committee next month.

The Dicks couple first went before the committee last Monday, but withdrew the application after an outcry from local residents.

"The community has been burned by applicants at this location," committee chairman Gary Reilly told the Dickses on Monday, and suggested they revise their application and re-apply.

The venue's stripper poles proved to be the lightning rods. Residents at the meeting alleged that the site's previous tenant, Paris Cabaret, billed itself as a vaudeville-style burlesque venue, but instead proved to be a run-of-the-mill strip club.

"If you're not into stripping, why were there poles there?" Red Hook resident and burlesque producer Kiki Valentine (a stage name), who attended the meeting clad in fishnet stockings and a romper, told DNAinfo.

"The crowd was skeezy, dancers were aggressively selling lap dances during the performances, they were showing porn on the TVs," she said.

The stripping allegations, echoed by other neighborhood residents, were reportedly corroborated by The Brooklyn Paper last November. Paris Cabaret closed two months later, just six months after it opened.

"I sympathize with [residents'] plight,"  Dicks, a computer systems manager for New York City Transit, told DNAinfo New York.

 The exterior of the former Paris Cabaret and Burlesque at 18 Commerce St., which is slated to become Con Amore Burlesque, landlord Sal Reale said.
The exterior of the former Paris Cabaret and Burlesque at 18 Commerce St., which is slated to become Con Amore Burlesque, landlord Sal Reale said.
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DNAinfo/Alan Neuhauser

But he expressed exasperation with continued complaints regarding the venue's past.

"How do I get them to focus on what we're seeing and not what somebody else did?" he said. The stripper poles, he continued, would be used occasionally, and then only by clothed dancers employed by the club.

"Why does everybody call them stripper poles? If you follow everything that's going on in entertainment, one of the hottest things out is called pole dancing, and pole dancing is not stripping," he said.

"They wear outfits or costumes very similar to what's worn in ice skating competitions, or a swimsuit. And pole dancing is an international sport."

Dicks pointed to what he said was his 32 years in the entertainment business, promoting, managing and ultimately owning bars and clubs in Brooklyn and Manhattan, including stints working for the Steam Heat and Harlem Heat strip joints.

Most recently, he and his wife Cynthia, a retired math teacher and DOE administrator, owned Studio 243 in Downtown Brooklyn from 2000 to 2005, which did not accrue a single violation on its liquor license.

"I formed my first corporation to do dance parties in Manhattan when I was 26 years old,” Dicks said. “We've got a history of having worked with jazz musicians, comedians like A.G. White, Capone, Rob Stapleton."

He and Cynthia plan to attract an older, more mellow crowd to Con Amore by playing jazz and R&B instead of rap, and offering beers for $6 or $7 instead of $3 or $4.

Weekdays will feature comedy, jazz and salsa nights, he described, and recorded music or DJs will play dance music to attract birthday parties Fridays and Saturdays.

"The property is ideal for a nightclub business," Dicks stated, noting that the site is in a light-manufacturing zone.

"It's great for people that drive. A lot of guys who come to my events, a lot of them are police officers, corrections officers, transit workers, and they work strange shifts. A lot of guys I know work four to midnight, so they get off at midnight and they want to come to a place where they know somebody."

 The interior of the former Paris Cabaret and Burlesque at 18 Commerce St., as posted to the nightspot's Tumblr feed.
The interior of the former Paris Cabaret and Burlesque at 18 Commerce St., as posted to the nightspot's Tumblr feed.
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Paris Cabaret and Burlesque

Even the occasional burlesque show, Dicks allowed, is not out of the question.

"I would like to do a limited amount of burlesque in addition to everything else," he said.

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