Area politicians and residents are fighting the opening of a strip club called Gypsy Rose in Long Island City, located at 42-50 21 St.
The State Liquor Authority will approve or deny the club’s second liquor license application on Wednesday, Jan. 18. An earlier liquor license application made by the club was rejected, at least in part because of insider trading charges brought against one of the establishment’s principals, according to officials and published reports. That individual was not listed as a principal on the club’s most recent liquor license application.
A rally against Gypsy Rose will be held outside the club today, Jan. 12, at 10 a.m. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Sunnyside), members of Community Board 2, which represents the area, and a representative from the office of state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) are scheduled to attend, along with residents from the community.
The battle against the club, which its owners bought in 2009, highlights longstanding tensions between adult entertainment establishments and Queens. The fight also points to Long Island City’s growing pains as it transforms from an industrial and manufacturing area — traits which the area’s mixed-use zoning guarantees it will maintain — to a glittering residential zone with thousands of new housing units under construction.
“When we’re trying to establish Long Island City as a family-friendly, safe environment, where parents can feel free to walk down the street with their children, having a sex-based business staring them in the face is not the best message,” Gianaris said.
None of the officials attending today’s rally argue that the club isn’t legally able to open, as it’s located in a manufacturing zone that permits adult entertainment.
However, officials expressed the hope that without a liquor license, Gypsy Rose would not be financially viable and its owners — called the 21 Group — would keep the club shuttered.
Complicating the issue is a previous threat from Gypsy Rose’s owners to make fully nude dancing — permitted only in clubs that do not serve alcohol —available should their liquor license be denied. At clubs that serve alcohol, only topless dancing is permitted.
“It speaks to the ownership of this institution that in response to valid community concerns they would essentially threaten us, they would threaten the community by saying, ‘You don’t like what we’re about to do, so if you try and stop us, we’re going to make an even worse strip club,’” Van Bramer said.
While the club is not located within 500 feet of a place of worship, school or other adult establishment — as required by city law — many argue its location is not ideal. Its proximity to an exit off the Queensboro Bridge, as well as Information Technology High School to the south, Queensbridge Houses to the north and Silvercup Studios, has caused concern.
“Being right near the entrance to Queens is disgraceful,” said Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who led a successful campaign to close Runway 69, a strip club in her district, in 1993. “Everybody should be outraged at having this be the first thing you see when you come over the bridge.”
Koslowitz said that when Runway 69 opened, she and residents protested outside the establishment “every single night.”
“We even protested at the landlord’s house,” she said. A few months after opening, the club closed, which Koslowitz attributed to customers’ unwillingness to pass by protesters to get inside.
For her part, Nolan emphasized she had been fighting the opening of strip clubs “all over western Queens” for 25 years.
Citing a recently uncovered human trafficking ring involving Gallagher’s, a strip club in Sunnyside, Nolan noted clubs like Gypsy Rose often present “a pretty sad picture of violence against women.”
Terry Flynn, the lawyer representing Gypsy Rose in its bid for a liquor license, could not be reached for comment.