Everything was going right for the once-industrial, now-booming Long Island City — until a strip club company tried to move its way into the little-neighborhood-that-could. This blossoming section of the city across the East River (the gateway to Queens!) has everything going for it: It’s extremely close to Midtown, land and rent is cheaper, it’s family friendly and not quite overrun by hipsters, and business and development is on the up.
Enter Gypsy Rose — a highly-contested strip club that could be days away from getting its liquor license approved by the state.
It’s a proposal that has united everyone who likes to be quoted in newspapers — the religious leaders, the electeds, the community boards, the not-in-my-backyards, the yes-in-my-backyards, you name it.
Next Wednesday, the State Liquor Authority will have its final hearing to determine if Gypsy Rose will get its liquor license and officially set up shop, and yesterday, community folks and electeds gathered to rally against the club, which apparently has clashed with the neighborhood for years as it has repeatedly tried to bring exotic dancing to LIC.
Runnin’ Scared caught up with City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer today who helped contextualize the threat this strip joint poses.
“As anybody who’s been paying attention will know, Long Island City has undergone a transformation,” he said. “The proposed strip club is right across the street from Silvercup Studios — one of the premier flagship companies in the borough. It’s literally at the exit ramp of the Queensboro Bridge.”
It’s near a school, all the new families that have moved into the developing riverfront, and the largest public housing unit in the country, he added. “There’s no way Long Island City is going backward. This is a neighborhood that is on fire in every way,” he said. “Sin City is not going to take us down.”
Gypsy Rose is not just a bad neighbor because of the nature of its business, Van Bramer said, explaining how the company actually threatened to make it a fully-nude operation if the liquor license is denied. Van Bramer said he’s not an expert on the issue (and neither is Runnin’ Scared), but basically, places with fully nude dancers cannot serve alcohol. So, the message from the club is: You try to block partially-nude dancers through the liquor process — and bam! You get full nudes, instead. Take that, developing neighborhood!
“They don’t care about the community that they hope to operate in,” the Councilman said.
State Senator Michael Gianaris said and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan also reached out to Runnin’ Scared with emailed statements of anger. (Gianaris feared the message that would be sent with the “opening of a sex-based business” in LIC, which has been experiencing a “renaissance,” and Nolan worried about the impact on both “existing industrial areas and the emerging residential area.”)
This afternoon, we reached Terry Flynn, lawyer for the club, who said that Gypsy Rose deserves a chance. First, he said, it is following all rules and regulations related to zoning and has all necessary licenses from relevant city agencies. “They’re asking the SLA to act as a censor. If this was just a night club there wouldn’t be such a debate,” he said.
“They intend on being very good neighbors,” he said, adding that the company has already agreed to many concessions, such as limited signage and extra security. He said a previous incarnation of the company had pursued a license and was denied, but added that none of the current partners have ever threatened to go fully nude.
The lawyer declined to comment on what the next step would be for Gypsy Rose if the liquor license was denied; if approved, Van Bramer said they would keep on protesting.
To be continued.