Strip club gets liquor board OK

National chain proposes `classy' operation with rehab of Gayety building

July 12, 2002|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

The Deja Vu national strip club chain got a green light yesterday from the liquor board to open what the club's owner said will be the glitziest adult entertainment venue on The Block. The board's action granted Deja Vu the necessary liquor and adult entertainment licenses to operate.

Deja Vu will hire the "classiest girls we can find," enforce a dress code for customers and station attendants in restrooms to hand out paper towels, said owner Jason Mohney.

Unlike most Block clubs, where patrons cluster around a bar, Deja Vu's clientele will sit at tables and be served drinks by tuxedo-clad waiters.

It will be "just like you go to TGI Friday's," he told the liquor board. Similar only different: "Naked girls will be dancing on the stage to entertain customers," he said.

No opening date has been set, said Mohney, a 28-year-old with spiky hair streaked with blond highlights. He plans to spend $1.5 million to renovate space on the second and third floors of the ornate Gayety Theatre building on East Baltimore Street.

Yesterday, the board approved transfer of the liquor and adult entertainment licenses to Mohney and Baltimore resident Roger Hartzog. No zoning approval is needed since the club will occupy the same space as the defunct Custom House Saloon.

Mohney and Hartzog have stated they have no felony records - a requirement for obtaining a liquor license - and a state police background check will verify their statements.

Mohney said he is part- or sole owner of 15 strip clubs across the country, having reached that point with help from his father, who is also in the adult nightclub business. Based in Lansing, Mich., Deja Vu has 62 outlets from California to Ohio.

"Our plan is to open not a seedy adult nightclub on The Block, like you have now," Mohney told the liquor board. That drew a mild rebuke from Chairman Leonard R. Skolnik who noted that observers in the room had ties to existing clubs there.

Mohney portrayed Deja Vu as a cut above many of the nearly 20 show bars on The Block. It will have an attractive decor and, unlike existing clubs, a cover charge, he said. No tank tops or baseball caps will be permitted. Existing clubs have no dress code.

Mohney said that while a "pretty girl" will sit beside a customer, "If you tip her, you tip her." Customers may, if they wish, buy drinks for the women - who will be hired locally - but they will not be "overcharged."

"You won't have girls hustling for drinks," said attorney Lisa Harris Jones, who represents Mohney and several Block strip clubs. Often, at some clubs, women will ask patrons to buy them drinks, sometimes soda, for as much as $20.

And Deja Vu, with 13 security personnel, will not let dancers and patrons touch. There will have to be 6 inches of separation during "couch dances."

"No touching," Mohney said.

The law permits only nonsexual contact between performers and patrons although numerous Block clubs have been fined for improper behavior involving dancers and customers.

Mohney insisted that Deja Vu would be different. "We do everything by the book," he said.

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