A veteran operator of high-end strip clubs like Scores and Sapphires hopes to open a topless club “as soon as possible” at the site of this current adult video store at Clarkson and West Sts. near Pier 40. Photo by Lincoln Anderson
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Paul Fox was walking back home from Pier 40 with his 8-year-old son two Saturdays ago when he passed the adult video store at Clarkson and West Sts. He saw a sign posted on the building’s corner inviting people in for a “community meeting” about the new high-end topless club that’s planned there.
Fox said he muttered something about the fact that now he’ll “have to fight this place too.”
“Why?” asked his son, as he held his dad’s hand.
“Because I don’t want a strip club here,” he answered.
“He said, ‘Daddy, what’s a strip club?’ ” Fox recalled. “I said, ‘It’s a place grownups go to drink and do silly things.’ ”
Fox said he also thought about the dilemma posed by the sign’s invitation to meet in the XXX emporium: Either he could leave his son out on the sidewalk while he went inside, or he could take him in with him and break the law.
Until recently, there was fully nude — topless and bottomless — dancing in the rear of the adult video store at Clarkson and West Sts., though without alcohol, since by law alcohol cannot be served with fully nude dancing. After Thomas Wolfe took over the video store in August with plans to convert it to a Scores-like topless club, he ended the naked dancing, saying he wanted to get off on the right foot with the community. A “Closed Tonight” cut-out sign now stands in front of the room where the naked dancing used to occur. However, Wolfe said if the community denies him a liquor license for a topless club, then he’ll just have fully naked danc- ing without alcohol. Photo by Lincoln Anderson
He also has an 11-year-old daughter. Both his kids play in the baseball and soccer leagues on Pier 40. Some DUSC players are as young as 4 years old.
Fox — the parent coordinator for recreation at Downtown United Soccer Club and a member of the league’s board — is spearheading the effort by local youth leagues to block the strip club from getting a liquor license, in hopes of keeping the business from opening at all at the location.
The salacious site is right across the West Side Highway from Pier 40, which has become a youth sports mecca and a vital hub for local families with young children.
“This is where kids come to play on sports teams and parents talk to each other,” Fox said of the 14.5-acre pier. “It’s not an area that we don’t use — it’s the heart of the community. We deserve to have an environment free of these types of stimuli. We want to teach our kids to respect themselves and each other.
“Are we about building a community based on our children?” Fox asked. “If we are, then forcing them to walk past this isn’t about teach- ing young girls to respect themselves.”
Last year, Fox fought an attempt by the operators of The Jane Ballroom to open a trendy nightclub in a space next door to the Clarkson St. video store where they would have had topless pole dancers as a sort of hipster adornment.
“They wanted to have strippers there for ambience,” he said. “It wasn’t really a strip club — they kept calling it an ‘ironic strip club.’ ”
The locations of the video store and where the “ironic strip club” was planned are both in an adult-use zoning district that was designated by Mayor Giuliani in 1997. However, Fox made the argument to the State Liquor Authority that it was inappropriate to have topless dancers there with so many children passing by. The chairper- son of the State Liquor Authority agreed — and ordered the new club, Westway, to remove its stripper poles. (Apparently, no one from the youth leagues has actually checked inside the place to confirm the poles are gone, but the leagues seem satisfied.)
Also, Fox “talked things through” with Matt Kliegman, one of The Jane’s operators, and persuaded them not to open Westway until 9 p.m., when the majority of youth league programs on Pier 40 have ended.
However, Thomas Wolfe, who plans to open Platinum, a high-end “gentlemen’s club,” at the video store location, is saying he would operate from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. weekdays, but open later, maybe at 6, 7 or 8 p.m. on weekends. A petition Wolfe recently circulated seeking support for Platinum said it would operate from 12 noon to 4 a.m., but he now says those aren’t the correct hours.
“We’re changing that — 4 to 4,” he said this week. “At the time, we were thinking about a lunch crowd.”
Wolfe said the petition garnered 1,000 sig- natures from local residents in support of the topless club as an “upgrade” over the video store.
“It’s always been an adult entertainment area,” he said of the corner. “I’m just improving what’s there.”
The petition reads: “The following under- signed residents of the area support the issuance of an on-premises liquor license to Mystique Mystique Inc. [a.k.a. Platinum] for the ground floor and basement premises located at 354-355 West St. It is understood by the undersigned residents that the business will be that of a high-end gentlemen’s club, similar to Sapphires in Las Vegas and Scores in New York. It will take the place of the current peep show and all-nude presentation along with an adult paraphernalia store that currently does business at the premises.”
Wolfe plans to present the petition signatures for review at Community Board 2’s S.L.A. Committee on Thurs., Oct. 11, at 6:30 p.m., at St. Anthony’s Church, at Sullivan and Houston Sts.
He believes his main opposition is from Morton Square, the new, full square-block, residential building one block to the north. Morton Square’s block was rezoned from manufacturing use to allow the residential project.
However, DUSC’s Fox and other youth league leaders are finalizing a letter they plan to present at the meeting asking the board to reject the club’s application.
“We are going to ask the community board to side with us in protecting the environment for children that was created,” he said.
Asked his initial thoughts about Platinum, David Gruber, C.B. 2 chairperson, said, “Not happy about it.” But he added, “It seems they may have an ‘as of right,’ ” meaning the club can go there due to the adult-use zoning. “We’ll see.”
DUSC and its girls league — Gotham Girls — plus Greenwich Village Little League rep- resent a total of about 5,000 local families that will oppose the club. Fox said he’s sure he can also pull in the Downtown Soccer Club and the Downtown Little League — adding another 1,500 families — to join the anti-Platinum push.
Above all, the leagues don’t want the club there, he said. But the idea that the flashy fleshpot’s opening at 4 p.m. would somehow shelter kids from its activity is false, he added.
Younger kids’ after-school sports programs at the pier only start at 3:30 or 4 p.m., he noted, and can run till 7 p.m. Older kids — ages 13 to 15 — start using the pier around 7 p.m. and might not wrap up till 8:30 or 9 p.m., but the main concern is for the younger kids, Fox said.
Yet it’s not the case that if Wolfe opens later, the leagues would accept it, the DUSC member said.
“I would say, first of all, we don’t want it there — and, second of all, we don’t want it there,” Fox stated.
In fact, the leagues have looked into trying to close down the adult video store, but found that legally it can be there. As it is, the video store, without windows, is fairly low key, at least during the day — though it did have fully nude dancing in its rear before Wolfe took it over in August.
Some in the league have wondered whether the corner can be rezoned to remove the adult-use zoning, but Fox said that’s a big job and they’re basically only parent volunteers who “put out fires as they occur.”
As for Wolfe’s claim that his bouncers and security cameras will improve safety for young athletes walking to and from the W. Houston St. Pier, Fox called it “ludicrous.”
“If he feels the need to have security cameras and bouncers, it’s a clear indication he expects a dangerous environment,” he said. “We don’t need strip clubs to provide security for our children. We have the police for that.”
Fox said he’s starting his campaign at C.B. 2, and will go further if needed.
“I’m going to go to every single organization in the West Village that cares about kids,” he said. “If we don’t find responsible and likeminded people at the community board, we’ll go to the S.L.A. and the City Council — whoever we need to go to.”