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By KAITLYN MEADE | Community Board 1’s FiDi Committee last week voted against a cabaret license for a club after neighbors turned out in force to complain about what they say is really a strip club. It did not help that the committee members felt they were being misled by the owner on several details, including an entrance on Murray St.
The club is called Remix, but many area residents remember it as Quest, which recently changed its name. Owner Panagiotis Kotsonis, who was introduced as Peter, and his wife, stopped by C.B. 1’s Financial District Committee meeting on Oct. 2 to petition for a cabaret license, prompting a lengthy heated discussion of its practices.
Their attorney Matt Leone started the ball rolling by reminding the committee that the club (described as an “after work type establishment”) was already eligible for a cabaret license but added that they were also there “to address whatever issues there are at this point” — which turned out to be quite a few, despite the fact that the community board has not received many complaints about the location in the past two years.
The club’s address is 27 Park Place, and the attorney at least, said he thought the Murray St. door was an emergency exit. The owner said it was only used as an exit for people to smoke and was monitored by security guards.
However, neighbors said that the Murray St. door served as the de facto entrance for certain private parties “with invitation,” which guests must show in order to gain entrance.
“There are 20 [people] out there. I walk my dogs between midnight and one, and they’re out there. Thursday nights, Friday nights, sometimes Wednesday nights,” said Richard Dorado, who said he has lived in a neighboring building for 11 years.
Dorado brought along one of these invitations, which he added can be printed from online and have allowed the club to skirt the cabaret license in the past. Guests, he said, line up at Murray St. to get in on these nights, where their invites are checked by two bouncers.
In fact, the 24 Murray St. address was the one listed on the Myspace page for Saint Venus Theater in July, a rotating amateur erotic dance service reported on in the New York Post when the club was still called Quest.
The Post reported in March that Quest hosted the “SVT” parties, in which girls did $20 lap dances for other guests.
Neither Leone nor Kotsonis confirmed or denied the allegations. Leone seemed to acknowledge that the club was violating existing rules, saying Kotsonis wanted a cabaret license so that he “could continue the business that he is operating.”
Cabaret licenses are needed for multiple uses including dance clubs and strip clubs.
The clientele at Remix have been a problem as well, according to Celina Szado, who moved to Murray St. in January. She said she is not comfortable letting her two teenage daughters walk past the club at night.
“There have been several instances where my girls have been cat-called and leered at and everything else,” she told the committee.
She went on to say that the neighborhood was becoming more family-oriented, despite the actual strip-club “New York Dolls” a block down Murray, and she echoed objections to Remix’s alleged practices.
Ro Sheffe, the committee’s chairperson, had to remind the assembly that the community board “can’t really make any comment one way or another on the desirability of an establishment or on what goes on inside,” but can make recommendations based on noise, litter and other such complaints.
In the meantime, the committee unanimously agreed to reject the application in an advisory vote. Many of them felt that Kotsonis had not been honest with them.
“For me here tonight, the testimony that the teenage girls are having difficulty going home, testimony of dishonesty toward getting around the cabaret license with invitations… I think off the bat we had a misrepresentation of the role of the two men outside, I don’t think someone should be given the privilege of a cabaret license,” said member Megan McHugh.
“Change the entrance, don’t let people line up at Murray St., come back in a couple of months, and let’s hear what these neighbors have to say in a couple of months,” said member Pat Moore.
“This committee is very pro-small business,” Sheffe told a brow-beaten Kotsonis. “The last thing we want to do is restrict trade for any small business. So we would love for you to come back, after you’ve fixed the problems.”