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Cops Bust Alleged Illegal After-Hours Sex Club in Midtown

By Jill Colvin | October 25, 2011 11:21am
La Galeria Loft allegedly operated from this space, hidden behind a glitter-encrusted gold door on the third floor of 38 W. 38th St.
La Galeria Loft allegedly operated from this space, hidden behind a glitter-encrusted gold door on the third floor of 38 W. 38th St.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — Cops have closed down an allegedly illegal after-hours nightclub that hosted paid sex parties in a Midtown office building for more than a year, littering stairwells with condoms and drawing a host of raucous patrons, police and neighbors said.

After scoping the area for months, cops from the Midtown South precinct received a 911 in the early hours of Sept. 30 tipping them off to activity at the second and third floors of 38 W. 38th St., a commercial building in the heart of the Garment District, sources said.

Officers who raided the space discovered “an illegal after-hours party where alcohol was sold without a proper license” to a handful of party-goers, along with hundreds of business cards and flyers advertising after-hours parties in the space, court documents show.

The establishment, which was advertised online as La Galeria Loftdescribes itself on its website as a “100% totally Private” space with a Moroccan-style tent VIP room, hookah pipe, DJ booth "with an unmatched NYC Club sound system” and “full lighting effects,” available for “before  and after clubbing” as well as for anniversaries, baby showers and adult parties.

The site promised “no restrictions” on loud music and says hours are “extremely flexible.”

Neighbors said it kicked into high gear late at night with rowdy party-goers arriving from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. and heading home as neighbors were headed to work.

Alleged club promoter Alexander Van Bousen, 43, was arrested on misdemeanor charges including the unlicensed sale of alcohol and alcohol warehousing, according to court documents.

“I charge $20 a person, all you can drink. I’m doing nothing illegal here," Van Bousen told arresting officers, according to the complaint.

"We don’t have a liquor license but I do run other night clubs."

Van Bousen has a previous misdemeanor charge for soliciting a prostitute after allegedly agreeing to pay an undercover cop $100 for sex at the corner of West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, according to a criminal complaint.

He could not be reached by phone and his lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment.

Messages left at other phone numbers affiliated with the lounge were not returned.

But neighbors said they were thrilled to finally be rid of the problematic space, which they said has been quiet since the police sweep.

“It was totally wild. It was totally crazy,” said Alex Taghavi, the manager at Havana NY, a restaurant directly across the street, who, like other locals, described raucous crowds screaming, swearing and leaving empty liquor bottles and other garbage outside.

“I’m definitely glad. I knew it was going to be trouble. ...It was bad for the neighborhood,” Taghavi said.

But that wasn’t all that was going on behind the club’s gold glitter-encrusted door, according to neighbors who said the venue, which sits directly below a Muslim prayer space and above a massage parlor, also allegedly hosted frequent sex nights with patrons paying for sex.

One advertising e-mail obtained by DNAinfo, geared toward gay men, promised an “exclusive” “after-hours party” “with over 80 guys!” for $25 after 1 a.m.

“Go out, come here, get off, go home,” read the ad, which said that “Condoms, lube, water, Gatorade and more is provided,” and outlined a “mandatory clothes check policy,” where guests were required to leave their cell phones as well as all clothing, except for their “jock, underwear, or sport shorts" at the door.

“Early in the morning we would see condoms in the stairwells. People would proposition folks going up and down the stairs,” said Stephanie Barton-Farcas, the assistant director of Nicu's Spoon Theater which used to occupy the building’s fifth floor, but vacated on Sept. 1 following a dispute with the building's landlord and warnings from cops in August that they were planning a sweep.

“We had an inkling that something was going on,” she said, adding that staff complained repeatedly to their landlord.

Residents said the problems began a year ago, first with noise complaints and then more serious disruptions.                

“You’d be getting your paper at 6 a.m. and they’d be just getting out of partying,” said one local resident who’s lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years, but asked that her name not be used for fear of retribution.

“I was concerned for my personal safety,” she said.

Reached at home, landlord Benji Faraj said he was not present on the night of the bust and insisted the activity was not commonplace. Faraj has not been charged in connection to the illegal club.

“Some guy had an event there, a party… It was a one-shot deal. It was one time,” he said, refusing to answer additional questions about the operation.

Van Bousen is next set to appear in court on November 17.

Shayna Jacobs contributed reporting