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Astoria Pols Rally Against Proposed 'Bikini Bar'

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | September 28, 2012 8:08am

ASTORIA — Astoria residents who say a proposed “bikini bar” would negatively alter the neighborhood's character, held a rally Thursday against the venue’s liquor license application.

Racks — located on Steinway Street between 19th and 20th Avenues — had been a billiards club, but now its owners want to reopen as a “bikini bar."

“I don’t believe this kind of establishment is appropriate for Astoria,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), who organized the rally, which was held at a nearby playground. Simotas, who came to the demonstration with her newborn daughter, said she fears that the bikini bar would turn into a topless entertainment venue in the future.

“We protest the establishment itself, but first and foremost the liquor license, because if they don’t get a liquor license they may reconsider opening of the establishment,” she said.

On Thursday, Simotas and Congressman Joseph Crowley sent a letter to the State Liquor Authority asking it to reject the venue's application.

Community Board 1 has also requested that the liquor authority to turn it down.

“We asked them [the owners of the venue] to sign an agreement that they would not become a topless bar and they refused,” said Lucille Hartmann, district manager. Hartman said a large residential building is being constructed on the same block. She noted that the area's zoning allows adult establishments.

Residents and elected officials pointed out that women have been the target of many recent crimes in the area and that a topless bar could make the situation worse.

“Sex-related businesses like this one are not welcome in our residential neighborhood,” said State Senator Gianaris (D-Astoria). “A lewd business like Racks will decrease our quality of life and harm nearby businesses.”

Carolyn Scarano, who attended the rally and said she had lived in the area her entire life, said: “Astoria is a very close knit and family oriented neighborhood. This type of establishment really has no place here."

But some residents didn’t mind the venue. "It doesn't bother me," said Stephanie Cruz, 21. “I live on Ditmars Boulevard and I never even go to that area.”

There are two other bikini bars on Steinway Street, according to Assemblywoman Simotas.

Kerry Katsorhis, a lawyer representing the owners of the club listed as 8G Inc., said “there are no plans to alter it to an adult establishment.”

He noted the venue is in a remote, mostly industrial area and has a large truck depot across the street.