Committee strips its approval from burlesque club


By Albert Amateau

The Community Board 2 Business Committee voted unanimously after a packed meeting on Sept. 11 against a liquor license for Forty Deuce, a burlesque club proposed for the ground floor of 19 Kenmare St.

More than 200 neighbors, some waving posters that said “No Nudity” over pictures of scantily clad women, crammed into St. Anthony of Padua’s basement meeting hall on Sullivan St. to oppose the club proposed by Ivan Kane, who owns two clubs of the same name, one in Las Vegas and the other in Los Angeles.

Kane and his associates made a personal pitch at the meeting, saying the club was not a strip club but a sedate, old-fashioned burlesque house. They said the show would be “high art” with no nudity, no lap dancing and no pole dancing, and noted that Forty Deuce would not require an adult entertainment permit.

But opponents were not moved.

“This is not Las Vegas or Sunset Boulevard. This is a residential neighborhood,” was a frequent response. A few, however, supported the proposed club. One young woman, a resident for the past few months of one of the 30 apartments in the building, said she would welcome a club that would “liven the neighborhood up.”

Kane’s mother sat with the promoter at the meeting but did not speak publicly. However, she became involved in a shouting match with several opponents that took place outside the hall at the end of the meeting.

“It was the most raucous committee meeting I can remember in the past 15 years,” said Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance and a member of the C.B. 2 Business Committee. Sweeney said he did not object to the content of Forty Deuce but opposed the liquor license because of the traffic, noise and crowds it would generate.

Ray Lee, the committee’s chairperson, said later: “We listened to the grassroots sentiments about Forty Deuce and decided a burlesque club that stays open until 4 a.m. was not a good fit in a residential area already saturated with more than 20 bars and clubs.”

Brad Hoylman, chairperson of the community board, who attended the Sept. 11 meeting, said, “I think the vote was appropriate, given the overwhelming testimony from the community.”

The committee will recommend that the full community board vote on Sept. 20 to ask the State Liquor Authority to deny the license. Last April, the full board of C.B. 2 had voted to recommend granting Forty Deuce a liquor license. But neighbors and Sook Ling Lai, director of the Chinatown Head Start program on Mott St. a block away from the Kenmare St. location, urged the community board in June to rescind the recommendation. The board’s Executive Committee last month voted to have the Business Committee reconsider the matter.

Warren Pesetsky, Kane’s attorney in the liquor license application, said this week that the State Liquor Authority procedure was absurd.

“Applicants in New York City can’t wait for S.L.A. approval before they start spending money on a location,” Pesetsky said. “My client did everything correctly when he went to the community board in April. He was totally up front about the operation. He’s had a similar place in Hollywood for 11 years in a residential neighborhood without a complaint. He and his investors have spent a lot of money on this location — more than $1 million that couldn’t be recouped if the licensed isn’t granted.”

Forty Deuce, named after the old slang term for 42nd St., has celebrity investors like David Bowie and Sting, and would have three serving bars in a 4,500-square-foot space. Opponents, however, said the original application was faulty because it had specified a 3,500-square-foot club.

Little Charlie’s Clam Bar, an Italian seafood restaurant, occupied the ground floor of 19 Kenmare St. for about 50 years until it closed earlier this year.