Ex-teacher to replace controversial Red Hook strip club with burlesque venue

They told you so! Neighbors irate over strip-club switcheroo
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A public school administrator and her husband will open a “burlesque cabaret” in a troubled Red Hook venue that’s home to a controversial strip club.

Cynthia Thomas-Dicks — a Department of Education employee and former math teacher — filed papers last week seeking a permit to serve booze at a nightclub that’s set to replace Paris Cabaret, which opened under the guise of a “burlesque performance space” then featured pole dancers, softcore porn on TV, and lap dances.

Her new establishment, dubbed Con Amore Cabaret, will showcase “burlesque,” “jazz,” and “improv,” according to the State Liquor Authority application she filed on Aug. 8.

Thomas-Dicks said she and her partner, Earl Dicks, have a different vision than Paris Cabaret’s owners — even though they wont alter the club’s interior, which includes stripper poles and a private room.

“There will be a variety of entertainment — and we’re definitely catering to a 35-plus crowd,” Thomas-Dicks said. “In a sense, we’re giving back to the community.”

But neighbors — who have long claimed the club on Commerce and Richards streets lures disruptive and sometimes violent patrons who urinate on the street — are skeptical that a change in ownership will change the culture of the venue.

“I have very little faith it will be anything better than it was before,” said neighbor Kiki Valentine, a burlesque performer who is respected in the industry.

That’s partly because the new proprietors aren’t the first people who promised the nightclub would be dedicated to the performing arts — last year Paris Cabaret’s owner David Ruggiero told Community Board 6 the space was “not going to be an adult establishment,” and said it wouldn’t feature stripper poles.

A subsequent visit by this newspaper proved that there were stripper poles — and dancers using them.

Neighbors now say it’s difficult to imagine that the new establishment will lure an artsy crowd rather than a seedy scene considering its location near the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel and the venue’s troubled history.

In 2008, the space was home to a dance club called Hello Brooklyn, which was operated by a party promoter who was arrested for selling booze without a license.

But Earl Dicks, who for years ran a jazz club Downtown called Studio 243, said he’ll use his experience with legit event promotion and crowd control to succeed with the new business.

“We come with the experience [the previous owner] didn’t have,” he said.

Red Hook residents hope it works — and that the club will become a meeting point for art, music, and real burlesque.

“It could legit place for entertainment but that remains to be seen,” Valentine said.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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