Sept. 17, 2014 By Michael Florio
The owners of a proposed topless bar called ‘Racks’ claim they can’t get a fair shake.
The owners, who aim to establish a bar featuring topless waitresses at 19-26 Steinway Street, went before Community Board 1 last night in their quest for a liquor license.
The owners, who were previously denied such a license by the State Liquor Authority last year, said that they plan to offer a venue that features a sports bar, lounge bar and night club—as well as topless servers.
Last year, Racks’ application received a chilly response from nearby residents, politicians and the Community Board 1. Last night, Community Board 1’s opinion had not changed.
“We recommend it be denied by the State Liquor Authority, for the detrimental impact this applicant, if licensed, would have on the quality of life of the community,” said Community Board 1 member Joseph Risi, who is in charge of liquor license applications for the board.
The majority of the board was opposed to Racks being granted a liquor license, with only five out of the 44 board members in attendance in favor of it.
Representatives of Racks, including lobbyist Adam Clayton Powell and attorney Mark Weinstein, emphasized that the business would be located in an industrial zone, away from the residential community.
Weinstein said that he believes the board is operating under the premise that topless bars are “evil and immoral.” However, he said, the board should be asking questions: “How is the establishment going to run, whose running it and what’s the security plan?”
Derrick Parker, a former NYPD detective, said he would be in charge of security at Racks. He said there would be metal detectors, ID scanners and a camera system at the location.
Parker said the operators would work with the NYPD and provide weekly updates and alert them of any problems.
“We would be no issue to the community at all,” Parker said.
The location was previously a pool hall owned by the operators of the proposed Racks for 10 years. The pool hall closed four years ago and the owners have invested nearly $1 million into the venue since.
However, other property owners have invested heavily in the neighborhood too in recent times. For instance, a residential development is being built down the block.
Weinstein said the new development should not be a factor in the board’s decision.
“It’s presumptuous to assume what any community would think,” he said. Weinstein said the owners would have to face the community board again in two years if they were granted a license and any new residents would be able to voice their views then.
Powell, the lobbyist, also brought up the fact that the owner would have to face the board again in two years.
“If he has not been a good neighbor for any reason, you can reject him then,” he said. “He deserves a chance.”
Powell is not the only one who felt this way. One local resident, who said he is a father of four and lives near the proposed bar, expressed support for Racks at the Community Board 1 meeting. “The business is doing everything legally and going through all the correct applications,” he said. “It would be a crime to refuse them at this point.”
However, political leaders were pleased with Community Board 1’s rejection of Racks.
“I have stood with our community in opposition to Racks from day one, and I commend the Community Board for voting to keep our neighborhood family friendly,” said State Sen. Mike Gianaris.
“As Astoria grows it is important that we preserve the integrity of our community, and a topless bar has no place where New Yorkers are trying to raise their kids.”