Dec. 21, 2018 By Meghan Sackman and Nathaly Pesantez
A retired judge and former NYPD officer is facing an uphill battle in his quest to open a bikini bar at the troubled site that housed Aces.
John Marks, who served in the Marines, was an NYPD officer in the 1970s, and is now a retired Nassau County family court judge, saw his liquor license application for 32-10 37th Ave. resoundingly rejected at the Community Board 1 meeting on Dec. 18.
Marks, who was joined by John Pezzo, an Astoria resident and recent recruit for the new venture for his experience in nightlife, attempted to explain the concept to the board prior to the vote, stressing that the potential business would not be a source of problems for the area like Aces was.
The prior strip club, which closed after the state canceled its liquor license last year, was a magnet for crime, including gang-related shootings and assaults, over the years.
The club, while open, was also met with many calls from local officials and residents to have the place shut down for good.
But Marks, who admits to no prior experience running or owning any bar, and has yet to even sign a lease for the site, said his bikini bar idea for the Dutch Kills locale is a financial investment that he would protect.
“It will not be an Aces,” he said. “It will be nowhere near Aces.”
Pezzo, who has worked with Ravel, Blend, and other western Queens sites, said the establishment would not offer lap dances or private rooms like Aces. He admitted, however, that the decision only came last week after seemingly being on the fence about it.
The site, with a capacity of 450 people, will also have longer operating hours, with plans to open at midday.
“We want to be able to be open for lunch for the community,” Pezzo said, adding, “Where you come in during the day, there will be no remnants of a nightclub or bar or anything like that,” Pezzo said.
Marks and Pezzo also told the board that there would be no use of outside promoters for their spot, which appeared to be Aces’ business model and a catalyst for its issues.
“I don’t want to bad mouth, but it was a disaster,” Pezzo said of Aces’ practices. “When you give your venue away to a promoter, you’re giving it away to someone who has no vested interest in that lease.”
The bikini bar will instead do everything in house, which Pezzo says will allow them to have better control over who comes through the door.
The two also plan on hiring a sizable security team that they say will be beefed up to between 10 to 15 people at closing time to manage the crowds leaving the locale.
To show his commitment to security and safety, Marks said he would personally be on the premise until 4 a.m. every night if that’s what it took.
“All I can tell you is look at my background,” he said. “If I say something I’m gonna do something.”
As far as parking, Marks and Pezzo said the valet across the street will provide 300 parking spots for their establishment, which would help ease potential parking issues.
Pezzo, who would act as manager of the bikini bar, also said audio experts would be heading to the site to run sound checks and recommend audio proofing methods.
Despite these details, Marks had little else planned for his venue. There is no name for the bikini bar, and he had merely signed a letter of intent with the landlord for the site to the tune of about $20,000 a month. Because of this, there is also no staff lined up for the site.
“I don’t know what I’m hiring, or who I’m hiring or if I’m hiring,” he said.
Pezzo later indicated that things are seemingly up in the air because of the uncertainty in obtaining a liquor license for the venue.
The board, unconvinced that the potential business would be a departure from Aces, unanimously decided to not back the liquor license application. Some board members even asked Marks to reconsider the nature of his business to something more family friendly, especially due to the area’s population boom.
The application was also panned by area residents. Gloria Moloney, a member of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, questioned why the retired judge would want to open such a business, and wondered whether Marks was standing in as a front for another operator that would open an Aces-like club.
A representative for State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who had long called for Aces to be shut down, also read a statement during the meeting from the elected official asking the board to vote no.
“As we work together to build a thriving neighborhood, venues like these do not serve a productive role in our community,” Gianaris’ statement read. “Adult clubs such as Aces and such as proposed here are plights on our neighborhoods, with a history of violence and undue strain on police resources.”
The liquor license application, with a “no” recommendation from the board, will now go before the State Liquor Authority.
Someting shady going in here, retired judge , and a promoter , how do you bypass cb1 and go to sla. Who’s getting paid here ?
Marks was a corrupt Family Court judge. You’ll be just as corrupt doing business in your neighborhood.
How do so many meatheads come up with enough money to open meathead businesses?
oh the irony of a Vehicle parked on the Sidewalk from a bunch of car hogs who tell us all how Bicycles are the problem.
“I’ll be there every night at 4am if I have to .. “ . Sure, Jan.
“…the potential business would not be a source of problems for the area like Aces was.”