Racks — a potential bikini bar in Astoria— almost, by the very thin strap of its g-string, received a recommendation in favor of its liquor license from the State Liquor Authority, but a little community input quickly changed the series of events which led Community Board 1 to vote against a license for the establishment.
It is standard protocol for CB 1 Committee on Consumer Affairs to only bring liquor applications before the full board if the panel believes it needs further discussion. Otherwise the department sends the decision for or against a license directly to the SLA.
That was going to be the case for Racks at 19-26 Steinway St.
On April 9 the committee, which has no real authority to deny or accept an application, only to suggest, decided to recommend the application.
One of its reasons for approval was that the establishment’s M1 zoning allows Racks’ intended use.
Additionally, the board noted that Racks sits on a quiet block surrounded by auto-related shops.
Politicians and community members for the last year have pointed to Woodtree Playground two blocks away and residential buildings a few more blocks away as reasons against the bikini bar. A several-story building on the corner of Steinway and 20th Avenue has sat empty for many years; however, CB 1 Chairman Vinny Donato said developers will start construction there “shortly.”
The committee also said if the SLA license was shot down, Racks could still operate as an all-nude establishment, without serving liquor. Gypsy Rose Cabaret on 42-50 21 St. went that route last year when the SLA turned down the club’s application after intense community opposition.
But during public comment on Tuesday night, Astoria resident and City Council candidate Costa Constantinides spoke out against the potential bar.
“I am supportive of small businesses, but not of a bikini bar near a schoolyard,” Constantinides said.
That started whispering between Consumer Affairs Committee Vice-Chairman Gus Prentzas and Donato.
Another community member then spoke out against the establishment.
At that point, against usual protocol, the committee decided to bring Racks to a full board vote.
The board voted 17-15 to deny the application.
“I believe it is morally degrading to women, but this is not the forum for a moral discussion, but for that of a discussion about small business,” board member Frances Luhmann-McDonald said.
“Our children do not need to learn what a bikini bar is on their way to little league,” according to a letter by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), read by her chief of staff Samantha Darche.
Racks lawyer Kerry Katsorhis of Ginsberg and Katsorhis said the firm had collected 180 signatures in favor of the “nonadult establishment.”
On SLA liquor licenses a business is not an adult establishment unless the women are topless.
The board also voted against recommending liquor licenses for Systems Dance Club, a Long Island City night spot that has five citations for consuming alcohol after hours and has recently started running after-hours dance parties until noon, and Pure, a dance club in Astoria that shares owners and a wall with the adult-entertainment venue Perfection. Pure has no significant police violations according to 114th Precinct Community Affairs Officer Eddie Negron.
It’s neighbor Perfection has had shootings and drug activity including an incident when members of a $1 million cocaine delivery ring were busted last week after bragging about their frequent partying at the club.
The article has been changed from the printed version. Gus Prentzas is the vice chairman of the CB 1 Consumer Affairs Committee.