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Protests planned against strip club

Bronx Times

Protests are in the works over a West Farms building that’s been home to several floozy clubs in recent years.

The latest incarnation is Divas Gentlemans Lounge, which held its grand opening Jan. 11 and is now in the crosshairs of community leaders intent of driving them out of business.

Several demonstrations will take place during high turnout weekends, said Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda.

“We’re going to mobilize the community so much it’s going to make them go away,” said Sepulveda, living just blocks from the night spot just on the tip of the Sheridan Expressway.

Schools, a post office and several private buildings pepper the area, considered a high-crime area, according to Community Board 6.

The club, opened daily, boasts 25 nightly dancers, a VIP lounge and live music, according to its Facebook page. Latin music station Mega 97.9 is expected to DJ on Thursdays.

MD3 Inc. is the firm behind Divas, once the site of the MD3-operated Luxury Box, a seedy bar featuring bikini-clad women working the pole. The club closed late last year to open as Divas this month. Ten years before, the nightspot was dubbed Smitty’s, which eventually closed.

“If this was in the upper east side they wouldn’t allow these kinds of establishments,” said Sepulveda.

In November 2010, Luxury Box was granted a liquor license by the State Liquor Authority, a move Community Board 6 and local 48th Precinct strongly opposed. Dissenting letters were sent to SLA, but they went unanswered.

SLA later admitted to overlooking the letters after seeing it wasn’t scanned into a file that would have sent the application to a three-member panel weighing the case.

When reports of brawls, illegal parking and pounding music arose, opposition for a license renewal jumped, with CB6 leading the charge.

“They claim that it’s a gentleman’s club, that it’s not going to draw the wrong crowd,” said CB6 District Manager Ivine Galarza. “But it is.”

In November last year, CB6 met with ownerc and his attorney Martin Mehler over the club’s plan to renew its license.

“I asked the owner would you want one of these in your community and it was dead silence,” said Sepulveda, who attended the meeting.

But despite letters from Community Board 6, the Four-Eight and city lawmakers to SLA, owners were granted a license.

Galarza soon sent a letter to SLA, explaining the community was shocked over the license renewal despite “reports of criminal activity in and around the lounge.”

Bill Crowley, a spokesman for SLA, said complaints usually do not warrant a license denial. He added it often is easier for a club to keep its license than if it were to first file for one.

But as demonstrations continue, CB6 promises to keep an eye on any developments.

“Any rule they break we’ll use against them,” said Galarza.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group