Affiliate of Famed N.Y. Strip Club Planned Downtown
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Affiliate of Famed N.Y. Strip Club Planned Downtown

By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer

The Washington Post
Saturday, January 6, 2001; Page A01

Two local lawyers, one of them an assistant state's attorney in Prince George's County, want to open a downtown Washington club affiliated with Scores, a famous New York strip club that has been connected to the mob.

Scores is the first strip club to seek to take advantage of a provision the D.C. Council adopted last month lifting a six-year moratorium on liquor licenses to nightclubs with nude dancing.

The Council eased the restriction after lobbyists for the gay community argued that establishments in Southeast were being driven out by redevelopment and had nowhere else in the city to go. Scores is not a gay club.

The strip joint is a regular topic on the Howard Stern radio show and is a popular hangout for celebrities and athletes. Club employees also have been the subject of numerous investigations into activities of the Gambino crime family and John Gotti Jr.

Gotti, son of Gambino boss John "Dapper Don" Gotti, was indicted with 39 other men in 1998 and is now in prison for mob-related crimes, including an alleged extortion scheme at Scores, according to court papers.

The organizers of the proposed D.C. Scores have put together a marketing plan that lists the club's owner and general manager as Roland Lee, a "practicing business attorney and entrepreneur."

The plan does not mention that Lee is an assistant state's attorney in Prince George's County. Lee declined to comment.

The second organizer, Emanuel Mpras, is noted in the marketing plan as an attorney specializing in immigration law. He did not return a telephone call to his Annandale law office. A woman who answered the phone said he was too busy to talk. (The plan notes that Mpras's immigration specialization "is helpful in regards to bringing special guest artist from Europe and around the world.")

The marketing plan says that the D.C. Scores would be affiliated with the New York club.

According to the marketing plan, Scores would generate $15 million to $18 million in taxes and create 40 jobs.

"The atmosphere within the club will be designed to leave a memorable impression," the plan said. "The focus of the club's design will be to create a highly social and relaxing atmosphere."

Scores has not presented an official proposal to District officials. Although aides to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said he is expected to sign the liquor law, it would still have to be approved by the Control Board and by Congress. The earliest it is likely to take effect is April.

Roderic L. Woodson, a lawyer who is chairman of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said everyone has an opportunity to apply for a license.

"That doesn't mean everyone has a right to win, but the board will judge each case on its merits according to the law," he said.

It is not clear exactly where Scores would locate. According to the marketing plan, it would go on the corner of Eighth and F streets NW in a space occupied by a nightclub. But there are no nightclubs on the corner of Eighth and F streets.

One spot that people following the situation have said could be under consideration by the Scores organizers is at 932 F St. NW in a building owned by D.C. developer Douglas Jemal and leased to the DC Live nightclub.

Jemal said he does not want a strip club in one of his buildings either, even though he is not opposed to them in principle.

"I'm not going to be a hypocrite," Jemal said. "I've been to these establishments . . . but I don't want one in my neighborhood."

Another potential spot is the Platinum Club at 915 F St. NW. (Mpras lists himself in the marketing plan as the general manager of the Platinum Club.) The building is owned by an affiliate of D.C.-based Stavins & Axelrod Properties.

"I've never heard of these people," said Robert Axelrod, president of Stavins & Axelrod. "We've never talked to them. . . . It would not be to the benefit of the F Street corridor really."

Some of the city's most active real estate developersobject to the club locating in the emerging retail and entertainment district near MCI Center.

Under the law that allows strip clubs downtown, a majority of registered voters living within 1,200 feet of an establishment with nude dancing may use a petition to block the granting of a new license.

Daniel B. Karchem, president of Karchem Properties, which recently redeveloped the Gallup Building at 901 F St. NW, said the nightclubs on F Street already create problems for the neighborhood.

"The club scene is not terrific, and I think Scores is going to make it worse," he said. "We're really trying to create a nice entertainment and retail zone. . . . F Street shouldn't be a Times Square district and even Times Square is cleaned up."

D.C. council member Harold Brazil (D-At Large), said a strip club "runs counter to what we're to do economically or otherwise to promote downtown as a living downtown, a viable place."

He said, "We're trying to get more retail. We're talking to places like Lord & Taylor. It's just not helpful." Like all his Council colleagues, Brazil ended up voting to lift the moratorium, because the package that contained it passed unanimously.

But Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who proposed the moratorium in 1994, said the tougher regulations the council passed are adequate.

Besides, Evans said, a strip club may fit with the city's desire for a living downtown.

"I want to make sure if someone applies for a liquor license these things are adequately scrutinized," he said. "But we're trying to make a living downtown. You could make the argument that live entertainment fits into that."

2001 The Washington Post Company

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