Red Hook Cabaret Scraps Stripper Poles, But Noise Remains Concern
RED HOOK — The husband-and-wife team behind Red Hook's Con Amore Cabaret agreed to scrap the nightspot's stripper poles, but it wasn't enough to win a liquor license recommendation from Community Board 6's Permits and Licenses Committee Monday night.
Following an outcry from the venue's neighbors during a public-comment section of the committee's monthly meeting, Permits Committee members unanimously voted to table a decision on the liquor license until next month. They asked owner Cynthia Thomas-Dicks and general manager Earl Dicks, both 57, to appear for a third time before the committee with more information on how they'll limit music and crowd noise at Con Amore.
"What we would like to hear is that there will be insulation," a committee member told the couple.
"That you'll do additional insulation to keep the sound from escaping your facility."
The Dicks couple and their lawyer, Stacy Weiss, were incredulous.
“This is crazy,” Weiss told the committee. “You’re going to come up with something else again next month.”
Dicks simply shook his head and put a hand over his mouth in exasperation.
Con Amore, located at 18 Commerce St., would be the venue's fourth nightspot in 11 years. It sits in a manufacturing zone, surrounded on most sides by metal-works shops, warehouses and small businesses.
A handful of apartments, however, sit behind or around the corner from the club, and on Monday, five neighbors told the committee that heavy bass thumps from the venue’s speakers, coupled with patrons shouting as they enter and exit the club, carried down the block and into their homes.
"That brick wall that's on that side that faces me is plain, there's nothing in it, there's nothing on it," alleged Christopher Gruning, who said he lives at 376 Columbia St., which abuts the club's backyard.
"There needs to be a double-wall, alternately set-up, very heavy insulation between."
The property's landlord, Sal Reale, 65, insisted that the club's walls "are 2-feet thick" and adorned with drapes to absorb noise. He added that the "stage is oriented so sound goes toward the street."
The general manager added that Con Amore would not blast loud rap or techno music, but would instead offer jazz, blues, salsa, R&B and Motown "at a conversational level."
"We limit the noise by the type of music that we play and the volume of the music that we play," he said.
"I personally don't like loud music. So I'm not going to be in a place where the music is blowing my eardrums out… Yes, there's going to be music, but we understand that if the music is to the point where it's being heard out on the street, it's too loud."
Residents, however, demanded specifics.
“I think that this community board has to really do their due diligence this time on what’s going to go on at that building,” argued Marshall Sohne, a Carroll Gardens resident who said he previously had an office at 378 Columbia St.
“I think we have a situation with the landlord that’s the same who was operating a club that had problems with the community.”
Sohne was referring to the property’s previous tenant and lessee, Paris Cabaret and Burlesque. The club, owned by David Ruggiero, initially billed itself as a vaudeville-style burlesque venue, but instead allegedly became a run-of-the-mill strip joint. The club closed in January, barely six months after opening.
Thomas-Dicks, a retired math teacher and Department of Education administrator, insisted that she and her husband “bring a totally new and different perspective from the previous owners. That’s in the past. What we’re bringing is different."
Dicks reiterated the point. A computer systems manager for New York City Transit, he pointed to what he described as his 32 years in the entertainment business, promoting, managing and owning bars and clubs in Brooklyn and Manhattan, including stints managing the strip clubs Steam Heat and Harlem Heat. Most recently, from 2000 to 2005, Dicks and Thomas-Dicks owned Studio 243 in Downtown Brooklyn, which did not accrue a single violation on its liquor license.
"I can assure you this is not going to be an adult establishment. There aren't going to be stripper poles or runways," Dicks asserted. "If I was doing that, I would say I was doing it, and I would be very good at it."
Instead, he continued, the club would skew to a mellower crowd, largely comprised of relatively high-income patrons in their late 20s and early 30s, by offering $6 or $7 beers, quieter music, watchful security, and occasional live jazz or salsa bands and stand-up comedy performances.
The arguments, however, weren't enough to overcome the chorus calling for more specifics on noise mitigation.
The committee next meets Monday, Nov. 26, at the 78th Precinct station house on Sixth Avenue.