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They told you so! Neighbors irate over strip-club switcheroo • Brooklyn Paper

They told you so! Neighbors irate over strip-club switcheroo

The Paris Cabaret and Burlesque on Commerce Street in Red Hook has turned out to be more strip club and less burlesque.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A Red Hook nightclub that opened under the guise of “a burlesque performance space” is now functioning as a shadowy strip club — and a hub for violence, public urination and noise.

Owner David Ruggiero promised neighbors and the community board that his Paris Burlesque Club on Commerce Street would feature “dance, comedy and singing” — but the club replaced those elements with poles, lap dances, thumping hip hop and soft-core porn on screen.

An online ad in the “therapeutic massage” section of Backpage.com calls the bar “Paris Cabaret Gentleman’s Club,” and boasts of “private rooms,” “hassle-free beautiful women” and “seclusion.”

The club — which is operating without a proper cabaret license, according to the Department of Buildings — has hosted a slew of rowdy parties since it opened in July, causing neighbors to file at least six police reports and complaints with the city.

In one case, a man “punched his girlfriend in the face,” before the fight spilled into the street, according to a neighbor. In another, a resident snagged video footage of club patrons peeing on doorsteps. Other neighbors cringed through the sound of techno during the club’s Halloween party, “Nightmare on Commerce Street.”

The worst part: They saw it coming.

In January, a fiery group of Red Hook residents of the semi-industrial neighborhood, near the mouth of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel stormed a Community Board 6 hearing to protest Ruggiero’s bid for a liquor license on the grounds that the “burlesque club” would actually become a strip joint.

Ruggiero promised that he would offer “talent” such as live jazz, comedians, mimes and jugglers.

“I can assure you this is not going to be an adult establishment,” he told the committee before it recommended that the license be approved. “There aren’t going to be stripper poles or runways.”

But that’s exactly what The Brooklyn Paper found at the club, where women gyrated against silver poles wearing only thongs and pasties. “Girls Gone Wild” flickered on a screen behind the stage and ladies offered lap dances. In the restroom are gaudy golden urinals.

A bouncer said that the club had ditched its burlesque shows, which tend to be more campy and suggestive than overtly sexual.

Legitimate burlesque dancers — who briefly performed at venue last summer — say Ruggiero staged only a few real burlesque shows “as a cover” to keep community board at bay, then dropped those dancers for foreign strippers.

“It’s wrong on so many levels,” said Kiki Valentine, who produced two of the legit shows.

Valentine said she supported Ruggiero’s plan at first — but that it later became clear he wasn’t really interested in burlesque: He stiffed dancers and demanded “no fat girls,” which goes against the body-positive performance art, she said.

“He used our art form to justify peddling smut,” Valentine said. “He broke promises.”

By the way, Ruggiero did not return our calls seeking comment.

Under city code, strip and burlesque club owners operate under the same cabaret license. The venue — located at 18 Commerce St. — does have a license to serve food and drink, according to city records.

“It’s not right to open under false pretenses like that,” said Mike O’Neill, a neighbor who opposed club back in January. “It’s pretty shady.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

It was supposed to be a classy burlesque club, but our reporter discovered that Paris Cabaret is as raunchy as any strip club.

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