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They told you so! Neighbors irate over strip-club switcheroo

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Red Hook nightclub that opened under the guise of “a burlesque performance space” is now functioning as a shadowy strip club — and a hub for violence, public urination and noise.

Owner David Ruggiero promised neighbors and the community board that his Paris Burlesque Club on Commerce Street would feature “dance, comedy and singing” — but the club replaced those elements with poles, lap dances, thumping hip hop and soft-core porn on screen.

An online ad in the “therapeutic massage” section of Backpage.com calls the bar “Paris Cabaret Gentleman’s Club,” and boasts of “private rooms,” “hassle-free beautiful women” and “seclusion.”

The club — which is operating without a proper cabaret license, according to the Department of Buildings — has hosted a slew of rowdy parties since it opened in July, causing neighbors to file at least six police reports and complaints with the city.

In one case, a man “punched his girlfriend in the face,” before the fight spilled into the street, according to a neighbor. In another, a resident snagged video footage of club patrons peeing on doorsteps. Other neighbors cringed through the sound of techno during the club’s Halloween party, “Nightmare on Commerce Street.”

The worst part: They saw it coming.

In January, a fiery group of Red Hook residents of the semi-industrial neighborhood, near the mouth of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel stormed a Community Board 6 hearing to protest Ruggiero’s bid for a liquor license on the grounds that the “burlesque club” would actually become a strip joint.

Ruggiero promised that he would offer “talent” such as live jazz, comedians, mimes and jugglers.

“I can assure you this is not going to be an adult establishm­ent,” he told the committee before it recommended that the license be approved. “There aren’t going to be stripper poles or runways.”

But that’s exactly what The Brooklyn Paper found at the club, where women gyrated against silver poles wearing only thongs and pasties. “Girls Gone Wild” flickered on a screen behind the stage and ladies offered lap dances. In the restroom are gaudy golden urinals.

A bouncer said that the club had ditched its burlesque shows, which tend to be more campy and suggestive than overtly sexual.

Legitimate burlesque dancers — who briefly performed at venue last summer — say Ruggiero staged only a few real burlesque shows “as a cover” to keep community board at bay, then dropped those dancers for foreign strippers.

“It’s wrong on so many levels,” said Kiki Valentine, who produced two of the legit shows.

Valentine said she supported Ruggiero’s plan at first — but that it later became clear he wasn’t really interested in burlesque: He stiffed dancers and demanded “no fat girls,” which goes against the body-positive performance art, she said.

“He used our art form to justify peddling smut,” Valentine said. “He broke promises.”

By the way, Ruggiero did not return our calls seeking comment.

Under city code, strip and burlesque club owners operate under the same cabaret license. The venue — located at 18 Commerce St. — does have a license to serve food and drink, according to city records.

“It’s not right to open under false pretenses like that,” said Mike O’Neill, a neighbor who opposed club back in January. “It’s pretty shady.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jeffers from Red Hook says:
Wow, you know the world is about to end when people... pee in public! Get over yourselves.
Nov. 8, 2011, 10:13 am
Farty Barkowitz from Red Hook says:
This is another example of the community board being lied to and being foolish enough to recommend that this establishment be granted a cabaret license. It says it all that the shamelessly absent minded and bombastic Lou Sones supported this venture. After all, he does own a bar, so he is the world's most revered expert on bars, alcohol and all things Red Hook. Everyone knew what this was and what this was going to be EXCEPT for the Permits and Licenses Committee. As far as I'm concerned this committee should be completely overhauled and should have the balls to recommend AGAINST an establishment being granted a liquor license. This place will be closed soon and another business full of promises and lofty business ideas will be presented in front of CB6. Hopefully this little experience has shown the board to not vote as if they were a flock of sheep and be skeptical of "promises" from the likes of such pure characters as Ruggiero.

On another note, the residents that are "up in arms" about this make me laugh. You move to a primarily industrial area, where a nightclub has been on and off for the past 15 years, and you have the nerve to complain about noise! Why don't we just remove industry from all neighborhoods because you decided to move in. Take 311 off your speed dials.
Nov. 8, 2011, 10:41 am
Ronnie from Red Hook says:
Jeffers, I don't think they were deliberately talking about you...
Nov. 8, 2011, 10:51 am
Ronnie from Red Hook says:
Sorry Ron, don't see your point?
Nov. 8, 2011, 11:55 am
Kicked in the SACKETT from Red Hook says:
Pasties and poles... doesn't make a strip joint.
Nov. 8, 2011, 12:24 pm
josef from downtown brooklyn says:
1. i do not see what is wrong with strip clubs. i am a downtown brooklyn resident and am looking at moving to red hook (saw an apartment off van brunt just this past weekend in fact). i used to live on union and columbia and am intimately familiar with the neighborhood. the presence of a strip club would not negatively impact my thoughts about the neighborhood int he least, though i'll admit i've only been to one in my lifetime.

2. as for ms. valentine's complaints - i believe that there is nothing shameful about the human body and that neither naked people nor sex acts are "obscene" or "smut", but if one is the type to moralize then i do not see much difference between the "body positive" "art form" of larger women with tassles on their breasts dancing and conventional stripping.

3. since the city has abdicated its obligation to provide people with places to pee, it is no surprise people pee in the streets. i've been on long walks and/or jogs after business hours when i've felt the urge to go, and unless you want to buy something in order to use a commercial establishment's facilities, your choices are basically to wet yourself or break the law. everyone has to relieve themselves, and sometimes the urge can come unexpectedly.

4. regardless, the false pretenses were wrong. it is a shame that the owner pursued such a tactic. at the same time, the fact moralistic neighbors would have made it hard for him to open if he were forthright is indicative of a problem with our system. businesses like strip clubs and venues serving alcohol should not have to prostrate themselves before community boards or liquor authorities to secure permission to operate. i don't even think the liquor authority should exist, really.
Nov. 8, 2011, 12:30 pm
matilda from red hook says:
Josef, any way you slice it there's a big difference between a burlesque performer making her costume and props, working on a specifically choreographed act utilizing theatrics and maintaining a distance from the audience vs. GIRLS GONE WILD (college girls flashing a camera) playing while a stripper gyrates against a pole to techno before she works the room trying to sell lap dances.
Nov. 8, 2011, 2:36 pm
greg from greenpoint says:
I just had a look at this block on google maps. It is completely industrial for as far as the eye can see in either direction. Talking one story concrete buildings and miles of sheet metal fence. Who could possibly be complaining about a strip club on this block, even if they did misrepresent themselves??
Nov. 8, 2011, 3:33 pm
Eazy D from Sheepshead Bay says:
Norm needs a few singles.
Nov. 8, 2011, 4:05 pm
tmp from bedstuy says:
Lived on Conover st for a while prior to the explosion of popularity of Red Hook... Neighborhood was always nice in my op. I don't know why folks are going insane over a strip club with residents are acting like they own the neighborhood. Also, in my eyes there is no difference between stripping and burlesque dancing.

Maybe burlesque is PG-13 and stripping is R or X but really no difference.
Nov. 8, 2011, 4:22 pm
Stunned from Carroll Gardens says:
This was absolutely obviously a strip club from the get-go. Anyone who was fooled for even an instant must be brain dead. The others who claimed to believe it was going to be some kind of arty burlesque club are just flat-out lying. And actually, there is a difference. A big one is that at many burlesque shows "non-working" women and couples are welcome and there is no physical contact or lap dances.
Nov. 8, 2011, 5:43 pm
Shocked from Carroll Gardens says:
I'm shocked, shocked to find that stripping is going on in here!
Nov. 8, 2011, 5:43 pm
Tired from Williamsburg says:
Nothing worse than seeing Kiki Valentine being interviewed on television. Why do reporters give this psycho the time of day?
Nov. 9, 2011, 8:08 am
Striped down to my Sackett from Red Hook says:
Is this still opened? Are there still girls dancing? If so, I will go... if not... then its just another block in Red Hook with nothing going on...
Nov. 9, 2011, 5:08 pm
InTheSlope from Park Slope says:
Sh_t, sorry I missed this earlier... I'll trade a strip club for the Barclay's Arena any day!!!!
Nov. 11, 2011, 4:06 pm
Phyllis Bruno from Red Hook says:
I went to see for myselft and it NOT strip club. It was funny and very different.

As for peeing in the streets I guess the people complaining are new comers. I have been here 34 years and that is nothing new for Red Hook and what makes you think Paris Burlesque made that happen everyone pees even dogs and no one complains about them - yet. People grow up and lets all get along.
Nov. 17, 2011, 7:01 am
anon from carroll gardens says:
I checked it out - its a tame strip club with pasties - no nudity whatsoever. The place was practically empty. Its a desolate block (really I thought the place was closed the block was so dead), so I honestly think ANY money coming in is good for the community. Its been a club in the past so I think noise, peeing on the street and the other rude behavior is mitigated by the fact that its in the *middle of nowhere* ...I know some people may live near that block, but lets face it, its an industrial block, you're on the outskirts of a slowly gentrifying neighborhood and you need to toughen up (IMHO) and are crying crocodile tears. Judging from the lack of patrons on a Saturday night when I was there, this place will be out of business soon anyway, but as for my opinion, leave them be, let them make $$$ and let the community collect taxes on them. Let's call a duck a duck - its a strip club in Red Hook Brooklyn - what about that seems out of place? This is much adoo about nothing.
Jan. 17, 2012, 12:09 pm
JIM from MOVED ON says:
Interesting to see what has become of the "Red Hook Blue" that me and my partner opened up the weekend of 9/11. We built that club from an ink factory that he and his father owned. We presented great blues, jazz & funk.
Too bad, we were voted best new club in Brooklyn...
Our opening date was 9/13...
our advertising said: "If the World Trade Center Fell over It would Hit us"! No ——!
A few days before opening we were hit!
The rest, obviously, is very sleazy history!
Sept. 7, 2012, 12:57 pm
liurouwan says:
From the very beginning it was definitely a strip club. Anyone who is fooled must die in the brain. Other people who claim to believe that it will become an art comic club are just lying down. In fact, there are differences. A big problem is that in many manhattanny escortsburlesque performances, “non-work” women and couples are welcomed without physical contact or knee dance.
July 29, 2018, 12:17 pm
liurouwan says:
It is a shame for owners to pursue such a strategy. At the same time, moral neighbors make it difficult for him to open. manhattan escortsIf he is straightforward, it indicates that there is a problem with our system. Companies such as strip clubs and places that offer alcoholic beverages should not advance in front of community committees or liquor management agencies to obtain business licenses. manhattan escortsI don't even think that the right to drink should exist.
July 29, 2018, 12:41 pm

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