New Haven neighbors not swayed by proposed strip club safety guarantees

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NEW HAVEN — While the owner of a proposed strip club described the business as one that would feature enhanced security measures to help police, those assurances did not sway officials and Jocelyn’s neighbors Square who oppose it.

Planet Venus project owner Peter Forchetti appeared before the Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday with his attorney Kenneth Rozich seeking special exceptions to locate the Las Vegas-style venue at 203 Wallace St.

Public safety, combined with plans for renewal of the area which residents said would be blocked if the club was there, was a dominant theme at the meeting.


The BZA approved the proposal in 2019, but a waiver allowing the club to be 1,100ft, rather than the required 1,500ft from the catwalk, a similar club, was overturned by the Superior Court, which found that Forchetti had failed to show that there was a difficulty. to accommodate the variance.

Rozich said his client had already obtained approval for the location of the club and for parking relief in 2019 and said he should be given a location waiver that will allow the adult entertainment complex to open in a renovated commercial warehouse in the Mill River neighborhood.

Citing multiple zoning references, neighbors and Alder Ellen Cupo, D-8, made their case in an hour of testimony, while Rozich cautioned against arguments against using the industrial plot. for the project, which is permitted provided it complies with certain rules.

Forchetti touted its “three business venues under one roof,” which will include a “gentlemen’s club” with DJs, singers, dancers and a light show; a steakhouse; and “1920s-style speakeasy with fake libraries and passwords to enter.”

“He’ll feel like he’s in Vegas or Miami,” Frechetti promised. “I think it’s a great addition to New Haven to have some kind of nightlife. That’s pretty much it.”

Rozich said there will also be a dress code: no baseball caps or sneakers. People who just want to dine will have a separate adult entertainment area.

Angel Fermin, a 27-year-old New York police officer, who retired as a lieutenant commander assigned to the Office of Police Commissioners, provides security for some of Forchetti’s businesses.

Fermin said he’s had corporate clients, such as AT&T and Pfizer, use retired police officers and bonded security guards and establish protocols for customers, lighting, cameras and incoming traffic flow. and leaving a place. He said he would be involved in this project if it were to be approved.

Fermin said they will have perimeter lighting and high definition television will store video recordings for 90 days, indoors and outdoors. A security team made up of both retired and active police “would actually help, not hurt, New Haven’s overall resources,” he said.

He predicted that this would contribute to a decrease in crime.

Fair Haven District Manager Lt. Michael Fumatti previously testified at a recent public hearing that he believed this type of club would overwhelm officers who would need to be there when customers left. He said he was unimpressed with the security measures at Scores, a club owned by Forchetti until he lost his lease.

Cupo said Fumiatti gave him 23 summaries of alleged incidents at Key Club Cabaret and Scores, two previous clubs at the St. John Street location, as well as reports of numerous club police calls.

The mother of a young woman also testified at the virtual BZA meeting in a shooting at the now defunct Key Club Cabaret on October 26, 2013 that also injured five other people.

She said there were cameras and security at the Key Club and her daughter still lost her life.

Lawyer Ben Trachten backed the process used to vet the club and said the board in 2019 had already approved two of the criteria it needed.

Trachten says little of the opposition “is about the legal role you play… It’s not about use.” These are the four criteria of Sec. 42.3 e. I’m not a fan of adult entertainment…but this is more of prior board action and the relevant low standard that applies in this case.

Forchetti said he only owned the club in 2015, when he opened Scores at the St. John Street location. Contemporary news reports of the shooting identified Forchetti and John Bertini as the owners of Key Club Cabaret.

Records show that the Key Club Cabaret was owned by Fuun House Productions LLC; Forchetti is listed as the principal member of Funn House Productions LLC in the Secretary of State’s records.

Forchetti became embroiled in a long legal battle challenging Scores’ eviction when the property was purchased by a group that has permission to bring affordable housing to the site, but was delayed due to legal appeals from expulsion of Forchetti.

This property is the old New Haven Clock Factory at St. John and Hamilton streets.

After the 2013 shootings, the Key Club voluntarily gave up their liquor license for a period of time to come up with a safety plan. Forchetti said they got it back. He said the company “was not at fault”.

Both Cupo and Anstress Farwell of New Haven Urban Design discussed the zoning requirements they believe this project violates, along with other criticisms.

Cupo said lifting the location restriction must not conflict with a neighborhood conservation or commercial revitalization program or interfere with urban renewal.

Cupo said the special exception must be “consistent with the convenience and welfare of the public after taking into account, as appropriate, the nature of the surrounding area and the extent to which the use or feature proposed could harm its present and future development”.

Farwell and Cupo said the 2013 Mill River Planing Study set out goals to improve living conditions in the Mill River area. They also listed investments already made from local, state and federal sources.

The presence of a strip club would undermine this urban progress, they said.

“It is important to remember that the authority of the BZA to maintain the 1,500 foot separation between adult cabarets is a minimum standard, and meager as it is, it is the only tool, apart from a increased police oversight, to protect public safety and quality of life,” Farwell said.

One of the only other ways to shut down a problematic facility is to challenge a liquor license, which is time-consuming and can be costly.

Cupo criticized the developer for not reaching out to the community. Rozich said that because there was no opposition in 2019, they expected it to be the same situation this year. Otherwise, they would have had a conversation sooner.

Despite a favorable report on providing 53 parking spaces where 58 are required from the city, Walnut Street resident Joan Cavanaugh said there were already problems finding spaces and speeding would be exacerbated .

Because the facility would close early in the morning, she reiterated her concern about patrons flocking to the street at the same time as residents commute to school and work.

In response to Forchetti describing the club as something like Las Vegas or Miami, Cavanaugh said, “I don’t choose to live in Las Vegas. I chose to live in New Haven.

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