2013-02-06 / Front Page

Simotas Rally Shuts Down Bikini Bar

By Liz Goff

An attorney for an infamous Astoria bikini bar last week told reporters that the bar owner is bowing to community pressure and is closing its doors.
Owners of the Queen of Hearts, located at 26-12 Hoyt Avenue South, which featured pole and lap dancing by scantily clad women, has decided to shut down the establishment that has been a center of controversy by community residents.
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas announced her intention at a January 17 rally outside Queen of Hearts to introduce legislation dubbed the “Community Full Disclosure Act” that will require establishments to make full disclosure on liquor license applications if they intend to offer adult entertainment.
Simotas, who organized the rally, said current liquor license applications only require owners to disclose their plans to feature “topless” entertainment, but the forms fail to require disclosure of plans to offer other forms of adult entertainment.
“This bill would mandate more disclosure on the forms and ask more information from business owners, whether they’re topless or otherwise,” Simotas said.
The Astoria lawmaker said Community Board 1 was unaware that Queen of Hearts featured bikini-clad lap dancers when owners presented their liquor license application for approval.
“There should be more specific information on the liquor license application,” Community Board 1 District Manager Lucille Hartmann said. “The State Liquor Authority should give local community boards more power when approving these applications.”
Attorney Peter Marc Stern, who represents Queen of Hearts, said owner Steve Hatzilazaridis, 82, decided to close the establishment to avoid further controversy.
“I’m pleased that the owner realized that an establishment that degrades women has no place in Astoria – or anywhere else,” Simotas said.
Simotas said the owner failed to mention that Queen of Hearts was a bikini bar when he filed an application for a liquor license in September with the State Liquor Authority (SLA). The owner also failed to notify the SLA when the bar, formerly known as Wild Rose, changed its name.
All establishments are required to inform the SLA of name changes, Simotas said.
When filing for a New York state liquor license, owners must indicate the type of business and whether the establishment will feature live music and entertainment, dancing or “box” music, Simotas said.
“Owners must also say if they will have topless entertainment, but they are not required to disclose other forms of adult entertainment,” she said.
Simotas’ legislation would require owners to disclose if their establishment has topless dancing, pole and/or lap dancing or any kind of exotic dancing.
“These people should be forthright in their application,” Simotas declared. “They obtain their liquor license by claiming they operate as bars and lounges, but behind closed doors their employees strip down to their underwear to offer paid lap or pole dances to their patrons. We shouldn’t be required to investigate every business that applies for a liquor license. The SLA should require disclosure of this information whether or not owners intend to have adult entertainment at their establishment.”
Liquor license applications are first filed with local community boards who vote to approve or disapprove based on available information and community input. The community boards forward the applications to the SLA with their recommendations – an echo of community input that has little clout with agency officials.
“It would be beneficial to all communities if the board and our recommendation had a little more punch and had more of an impact,” Hartmann said.
Simotas pointed to another adult entertainment establishment, Racks, that raised controversy by applying for a liquor license without disclosing plans to feature other types of adult entertainment to Community Board 1 or the SLA. Simotas said she can’t understand how these establishments keep popping up in neighborhoods where they raise the ire of residents.
“The community boards are not getting the information they need to properly scrutinize each application,” Simotas said. “This has to change. The boards should not have to visit a location to investigate. They shouldn’t have to go knock down the door and find the owner. The liquor license applications must provide all essential information, right up front.”

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