Bikini bar gets fierce opposition from leaders, locals

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Joined by Congressmember Joe Crowley and Senator Michael Gianaris, Aravella Simotas addresses her constituents at a rally against the proposed bikini bar.Photo courtesy of Aravella Simotas
Joined by Congressmember Joe Crowley and Senator Michael Gianaris, Aravella Simotas addresses her constituents at a rally against the proposed bikini bar.

Residents are worried that an uncovered bid for an Astoria bikini bar may be a scantily-clad plan to wiggle a strip club into their neighborhood.

Racks, the club located at 19-26 Steinway Street, was recently leased to a company called 8G Inc. Formerly a billiard parlor, the establishment sits just half a block from homes, several hundred feet from a park and two blocks away from a school.

8G Inc. sought to obtain a liquor license, which was voted against unanimously by Community Board 1 in early September. District Manager Lucille Hartmann attributed the board’s decision to the establishment’s inability to benefit the community. Racks’ fate will be decided by the New York State Liquor Authority, advised by recommendations made by the community.

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, who lives three blocks from Racks, said the neighborhood is an absolutely inappropriate place for a skin-based business.

“People who live in Upper Ditmars are very unhappy and are concerned that it’s going to have a negative effect on the community,” said Simotas. “Who is going to want to move in when there’s a bikini bar half a block away?”

Simotas, whose campaign against Racks garnered support from Congressmember Joe Crowley and Senator Michael Gianaris, said she remains confident the State Liquor Authority will consider their side and heed their warning.

According to Simotas, 8G Inc. executives refused to promise that the bar would not morph into a full-blown strip club.

8G Inc. attorney Kerry Katsorhis claimed Racks would not become an adult entertainment establishment and that women would be dressed no differently than if they were at the beach.

“It’s zoned for it. It’s in a commercial area. Its neighbors consist of a truck depot and warehouses. It seems to be in a remote area. It’s not surrounded by houses. There are no houses of worship or schools. Where else can you think of,” Katsorhis asked.

Katsorhis believes many people in the community would enjoy the bikini bar.

Carolyn Scarano, a life-long resident of Upper Ditmars, fears the installment of such an institution could devalue the neighborhood. Scarano, who frequently took her now-grown children to the park near Racks, believes it may draw questionable clientele to a family-oriented area.

“I really don’t think this neighborhood calls for an establishment like that,” said Scarano. “We encourage businesses — this is not the kind of establishment we’re looking for.”