|Community leaders are fuming over The Luxury Box, a new bikini bar in West Farms (Photo by F. Pinto)|
By FAUSTO GIOVANNY PINTO
The Luxury Box Sports Bar and Cabaret, a bikini bar that recently opened at 1101 E. 177th St., received its liquor license even after Community Board 6 sent a letter of disapproval, a mistake the Liquor Authority acknowledges.
“We didn’t recommend this,” said Ivine Galarza, Community Board 6’s district manager. “We don’t want this type of place next to a residential building.”
In a statement, the Liquor Authority admitted it screwed up. Even though they received the Board’s letter, it wasn’t scanned into the file, spokesman William Crowley said.
While community board approval is not needed to obtain a liquor license, a letter of disapproval would have sent The Luxury Box’s application before a three-member panel — and those letters weigh heavily on the board’s decision.
Kerri J. O’Brien, the Liquor Authority’s deputy commissioner, apologized to the Community Board, telling them to call her if any problems arise with the controversial club, which has been granted a liquor license until Nov. 30, 2012.
According to Galarza, the site of The Luxury Box was home to a former strip club called Smitty’s, a problem spot that closed 10 years ago because of issues with permits and violations.Years later, the club reopened under the same name as a regular nightclub. That place closed last year, and The Luxury Box soon popped up in its place.
Community Board leaders said they are working closely with the 48th Precinct to closely monitor the place.
Luis Sepulveda, a local community leader and ally of State Senator Ruben Diaz, Jr., plans to hold a late night rally in the coming days at 2 a.m., when the club is in full swing. The protest, he said, would deter potential visitors to The Luxury Box who wish to remain anonymous.
“We don’t tolerate this in our district,” he said. “We want it shut down and to prevent other people from opening similar places here.”
The Luxury Box’s website advertises “the newest and hottest club in the Bronx with a classy and mature vibe,” and a Facebook fan page lists Jan. 6, 2011, as the bar’s grand opening.
Demetrius Dudley, a manager at The Luxury Box, described the bar as a safe, enjoyable place to watch a sports game, grab a beer and eat some wings without having to go to Manhattan or Westchester. The bar is similar to Hooters, he said, and none of the dancers are topless.
In response to security concerns, 16 cameras have been installed around the bar, Dudley said, and 10 licensed guards are on the premises. The bar plans to sponsor little league sports teams and donate food to the community, he said.
Local business owners have different takes on the new night spot.
“This place is off the beaten path. What kids pass by here?” said a nearby florist, who declined to give his name. “Whatever problems this neighborhood has had, they didn’t bring with them. This is a business that will bring business.”
Louna Castro Morales, a resident of the community for 14 years and owner of a massage therapy office nearby, disagreed.
“This is an up-and-coming community, and this isn’t suitable for what we are trying to create,” she said. “That’s right by exits to two major highways and the MTA Depot. When people see that place, it makes us look bad.”