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Queens Chronicle

Pols: bikini bar doesn’t belong here in Astoria

Racks on Steinway Street applied for a cabaret liquor license

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Posted: Thursday, October 4, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 5:15 am, Wed Dec 24, 2014.

Racks wants people to eat, drink and watch bikini-clad women — or even men — dance, according to lawyer Kerry Katsorhis of Ginsberg and Katsorhis, but community leaders in Astoria aren’t happy with the proposal.

“We don’t want any adult establishments in this neighborhood,” Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said, on Thursday in Woodtree Playground two blocks away from the not-yet-open business. State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) joined Simotas to protest the establishment, located at 19-26 Steinway St.

Racks, previously a pool hall, has applied for a cabaret liquor license with the State Liquor Authority. Politicians sent letters on Thursday asking that the license be rejected in light of community concerns. Community Board 1, which can advise the SLA but not make a final call, unanimously opposed a liquor license for the business.

Racks does not violate any laws that would prevent it from obtaining the stamp of approval, but officials are hoping their voice and the community board’s vote will work like it did at a nude bar in Astoria. The SLA rejected a license for the nude juice bar formerly called Gypsy Rose Cabaret on 42-50 21 St. because of the community outcry. Since then the business changed its name to 21 Group and reapplied for a license.

Katsorhis said he’s disappointed with the negative response, underscoring that the business, which is owned by one of the same owners as the pool hall — also named Racks, but after the pool playing instrument — and a new firm called 8G Inc., is doing everything legally.

“We just want to make a living,” he added.

“Women or men — not nude, not exposed — are there to provide entertainment and provide a service in the legal sense. They are scantily clad, but they are clad,” Katsorhis said. “This is not the 1880s. Come on, get with it — go to Manhattan or Brooklyn.”

People opposed to the establishment are worried that Racks will apply to become a nude bar over time.

“It’s a scantily clad Trojan horse and we know what that will bring,” Crowley said.

Racks representatives refused to sign a document saying it would not become a strip club at a CB 1 meeting. Katsorhis said the business has no intentions to do so, but he would not allow any document to be signed because “I’m not going to have a client sign their rights away.”

Simotas said a place with women dancing “with three inches of fabric” does not belong in the residential neighborhood. She pointed to Junior High School 141 about four blocks away and the little league and soccer fields on Steinway Street. Simotas, who lives near the park, brought her two-month-old baby, Eleni, to underscore her point.

Katsorhis differs. “Look around,” he said.

The block of Steinway Street where Racks is hoping to open is surrounded by auto-related shops. During a 10-minute period on Thursday afternoon two women walked down the block towards the bus stop. Both were not from the neighborhood.

The younger woman did not have an opinion about the place, whereas the older woman thought no neighborhood should have a bikini bar.

John Salvo, the owner of Steinway Auto Body, said the business wouldn’t bother him.

Simotas also said that the patronage could propose a threat to women in the neighborhood. Crime is up 10 percent this year to date compared to 2011 in the 114 Precinct, which patrols Astoria, according to NYPD. Rapes are up by 65 percent and assaults up by 7 percent.

“Women are being attacked all over the city,” Simotas said.

In the ’90s a porn shop opened up on Ditmars Avenue. Community members stood outside the door rain or shine, sometimes until midnight in protest, District 36 leader Carol Scarano said. After two months the business closed.

“Who’s going to walk into a porn shop with all of your neighbors outside?” Scarano said on Thursday.

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