Dozens of residents held a protest rally Sunday morning at the planned location of a new entertainment facility in Wantagh that many in the community worry will resemble a strip club.
The protest was held at 3500 Sunrise Hwy., a property that Billy Dean, owner the North Bellmore strip club , purchased last year to open a new entertainment complex. Dean Patch last November that he was not planning to have any adult entertainment at his new Wantagh business and it would instead be operated as a dinner club with “unique comedy acts.” However, many Wantagh residents are concerned that Dean will still be operating the business with adult entertainment similar to Billy Dean's Showtime Cafe.
Last May the Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) granted Dean's request to have a special exception for public assembly and amusement on the Wantagh property, that was formerly home to Frank’s Steaks, including cabaret, live music, dancing and entertainment. Among the conditions in the Hempstead BZA's approval was that there be no nude entertainment and that no employees be topless or bottomless.
Protesters on Sunday did not take any comfort in the zoning board's conditions since while no nudity is allowed, G-Strings, pasties and other sexually provocative outfits and accessories can still be used when a cabaret license is granted. Residents at the rally call it simply, “irresponsible – and probably illegal zoning." People at the rally also pointed out how the facility is being constructed with no windows, which is indicative of the business being a strip club.
Spearheading the resistant effort against Dean's planned business is Wantagh resident Kevin Milano, who organized Sunday's rally. A group of more than 20 adamant dissenters stood outside the construction site, informing all drivers that a strip club was being built.
“We go door to door, letting people know about this strip club and honestly, 95 percent of people had no idea that this strip club was being built," said Milano. "Do we residents have no say in what they put in our neighborhoods?” It’s all very suspicious to us.”
The business is slated to be open from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. and residents are worried not only about the over congestion of parking but also about a possible influx of alcohol, drugs and possibly even violence into their residential neighborhoods. Residents are also worried that, with such expansive hours, elementary, middle and high school aged students will be exposed to inappropriate surroundings. The property the business is being constructed on is located less than a mile from .
Dean did not return a call seeking comment about the protest. The Billy Dean's Showtime Cafe website describes the unnamed Wantagh facility as a "full service restaurant" that "will feature dinner and show theatrical production packages with various types of variety entertainment." The description of the planned business said the club will "cater to anniversary, birthday, bachelorette, bachelor parties or groups of friends looking for a new twist for an exciting evening."
Protesters expressed frustration at the rally that the permit for the business, which is still under construction , and clearly says "cabaret license" was taken down until after building inspections are complete. Residents also reported that fliers and anti-strip club materials were being removed all throughout Wantagh.
Sunday's rally was attended by Nassau County Legislators Dennis Dunne, Sr., R-Levittown and Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick. Denenberg sent a letter to the Hempstead BZA asking that they re-consider their decision to grant Dean the cabaret license because of fear that it will enable the business to turn into a strip club operation.
"The BZA must protect the quality of life and market values of the neighboring residential properties," said Denenberg in his letter to the zoning board. "The board cannot allow special exceptions and variances of code to the detriment of our residential neighborhoods."
Hempstead Town Councilwoman Angie Cullin, R-Freeport, whose district includes Wantagh,issued a statement saying that while the BZA is separate from the town board she opposes its decision. "I have spoken to the town building department and asked them to monitor this facility closely and ensure that no type of activities that violate the conditions of the Board of Appeals approval be tolerated," said Cullin. "Any violation would immediately provide for a reopening of the case and the revocation of their Board of Appeal’s approval...I will seek an immediate injunction to have the facility shut down if illicit or other activities that violate the terms of Billy Dean’s agreement with the Board of Appeals occur."
Milano said another protest outside of 3500 Sunrise Hwy. is planned for this Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
Andrew Coen contributed to this story.