HUNTS POINT — A bill proposed by two Bronx lawmakers in the state legislature last month aims to arm local groups in their battle against rowdy strip clubs.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., would require the State Liquor Authority to invite municipalities or community boards to present oral testimony before it issues certain liquor licenses, including on-premise drinking permits.
Diaz said he decided to act after the state granted a liquor license renewal in March to Platinum Pleasures, a topless bar located at 1098 Lafayette Ave. in Hunts Point, just two blocks from Wildcat Academy Charter School, despite fierce opposition from the local community board and business leaders.
“Right now, there is no indication that the community is heard,” said Diaz. “To have a member of the [community] board go testify in person, we are making sure the community is heard.”
Platinum Pleasures, which has not yet opened, will replace the site’s previous strip club, Badabing, which was the scene of multiple stabbings, shootings and arrests for drug sales and prostitution when it operated from 2006 to 2009, according to Rafael Salamanca, district manager of Community Board 2.
Salamanca has led the charge against the proliferation of gentlemen’s clubs in Hunts Point, which he says breeds violence, promote prostitution and tarnish the image of the neighborhood. He notes that the 1.5 square-mile peninsula is home to four strip clubs and a bikini bar.
“As well managed as these establishments may be, once their clients leave their premises or are removed for disorderly behavior, problems with gun violence, loitering, drunk driving and solicitation occurs,” Salamanca recently wrote in a letter to the Liquor Authority, explaining his board’s opposition to a prospective fifth topless joint, called King of Clubs.
Not only do the clubs lower the neighborhood’s quality of life, but they also deter other businesses from investing in the area, said Maria Torres, president of The Point Community Development Corp.
“We’re still trying to shake the stigma we have with Hunts Point being know for drugs and hookers,” said Torres. “You keep having strip clubs come in, it will never change.”
After Community Board 2 and several elected officials wrote letters to the Liquor Authority asking it to deny King Oak Corp.’s license application for King of Clubs at 1280 Oak Point Avenue, Salamanca made his argument in person at the agency’s full board meeting last week.
The agency decided to deny the club’s application, citing efforts by the community to restore the area “to a livable environment.”
After the agency’s decision, King Oak Corp.’s attorney, Earle Roberts, told DNAinfo that, in a “free society,” communities have a right to advocate for their interests, just as businesses have a right to promote their own.
Representatives from Platinum Pleasures did not immediately respond to a phone message.
Potential liquor licensees must notify local community boards 30 days before they submit applications, said William Crowley, director of public and legislative affairs for the Liquor Authority.
Normally, agency staff handles the applications, but if community boards or elected officials oppose an establishment, then the application goes before the full board, Crowley said. In that case, the agency notifies the opposition that they may testify at the board meeting, Crowley added.
The proposed bill would make the agency’s current policy the law.
Hunts Point’s establishments are not the only South Bronx strip clubs who have tangled with the law.
Sin City, a topless cabaret that has operated for a decade in nearby Mott Haven, has paid $8,300 in fines for health and safety violations since 2003, according to state records.
In recent months, in response to several incidents at Sin City, police officers have been diverted from other parts of the community to monitor the club, according to the 40th Precinct commander, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack.
“I’m drawing my troops away from where they should be,” McCormack said at a precinct council meeting in April, adding that in the seven months he has headed the precinct, four people have been shot at Sin City.
McCormack said drug dealers frequented the club and that many of the people involved in violent episodes there had extensive criminal records.
“These are some of the worst people you could ever have come into your community,” McCormack told the precinct council. “That’s a fact — you can look up their arrest records.”
The club abuts a taxi depot run by Gotham Yellow LLC.
A driver there, Jose Peguero, 34, said that he often returns from night shifts between 4 and 5 a.m. — just as club patrons begin pouring out into the street.
“They come out of there amped up with alcoholic fuel,” said Peguero, an Iraq war veteran. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”
Peguero described a recent incident when, he said, a group of men left the club, urinated in a corner of the taxi lot, then assaulted an attendant who tried to stop them.
A manager at Sin City, who declined to give his name, said the club had invested heavily in security — in the form of cameras, metal detectors, ID scanners that record patrons’ information, outdoor light towers and up to 20 guards on site at certain times.
He added that guards were recently posted by the gates of the taxi lot to prevent incidents there.
“We do as much as possible within the limits of the law,” he said.