By Chris Engelhardt
The state Liquor Authority ruled against granting a liquor license to the operators of a proposed bikini bar in Astoria last week, a decision that was lauded by elected officials who oppose the establishment.
Several officials, including state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides and representatives from U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley’s (D-Jackson Heights) office spoke out at an SLA hearing against Racks, a bar set to open at 19-26 Steinway St. in Astoria.
Officials said although the area is industrial, it is less than a block away from 20th Avenue, which is home to many residences and playgrounds. The opponents said it would be too close to Woodtree Playground, at 38th Street and 20th Avenue, as well as IS 141, which is a block and a half away.
The location led to Community Board 1’s decision to unanimously reject its application for a liquor license, but the owners, known as 8G Inc., appealed to the SLA. The president of 8G Inc. is Nicolas Metracos.
Simotas and officials have contended since October that the community has had no assurances that the bikini bar would not later become a topless bar or a strip club. Simotas said the establishment would have resulted in reduced property values, the need for additional law enforcement and general urban blight.
According to Simotas, since March, her office has received an outpouring of community opposition to the establishment. More than 500 residents signed a petition to make it clear they did not want Racks in their neighborhood.
“A place like Racks is wholly out of character with the family-friendly neighborhood of its proposed location,” Simotas said, commending the SLA for gauging the concerns of residents and officials in Astoria. “Astoria does not need scantily clad women performing lap and pole dances a stone’s throw away from a playground, middle school and our neighbor’s homes.”
But Kerry John Katsorhis, an attorney representing 8G Inc., said Racks has the legal right to obtain a liquor license.
“We will bring an Article 78 proceeding to challenge the propriety of the SLA ruling,” he said in a statement.
Both Crowley and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), however, said SLA’s denial of the application sends a strong message that such establishments are not welcome in the community.
“I tip my hat to the state Liquor Authority for listening to our community and helping preserve the character of our neighborhood,” Gianaris said. “This decision is a victory for our quality of life and for the thousands of families raising their children in Astoria.”
Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.