In the continuing efforts to locate a gentlemen's club in Downtown Milwaukee, the operators of Silk Exotic have begun negotiations to take over operations of the Ladybug Club, also known as 618 Live on Water, the troubled Water Street nightclub that has been the site of violence and opposition from Downtown neighbors, businesses and civic leaders.
Ald. Robert Bauman, who represents the Downtown area, confirmed the negotiations Friday night.
"They (Silk) are negotiating (with) Ladybug to take over," Bauman said. "I hope they reach an agreement. Then we’ll see what the people prefer, guns and violence or exotic dancers."
Bauman was referring to the long-standing reputation for trouble that has plagued Ladybug Club. Efforts to suspend or otherwise control the license for the club, that caters in large measure, to a black clientele, have often been couched in racial terms.
A recent committee hearing concerned the possible suspension of the club’s license in response to a request from the Downtown Hilton Garden Inn, which abuts the rear of the club at 611 N. Broadway.
The vote on the suspension broke along racial lines and claims of racial bias have flooded the debate about the club.
After the vote, Michael Maistelman, an attorney representing the Ladybug Club, was asked whether there was a racial element to the debate. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted him as saying, "I'll let the vote and the ethnicity of the elected officials speak for themselves ... women, Latinos and the African-American contingency voted overwhelmingly with us and South Side non-minority aldermen voted against us. You can draw whatever conclusions you want."
Bauman has said that he supported revoking the club's license for years. In fact, the club's license has been suspended in previous years before its most recent suspension this year. The club's police history is also long.
At the time of the most recent suspension, Bauman told the Journal Sentinel, "They will play the race card. That's bothersome to me. It's about behavior and money. He has made an immense amount of money at that club."
Maistelman also told the Journal Sentinel that the hotel (Hilton Garden Inn) should have known what it was getting into when it chose to invest as much as $20 million in the location.
"If you move next to the airport, you can't complain about noise from airplanes. And that's what they are doing," he said. "The club accommodates African-Americans. The complainers against us happen to be Caucasian. We believe that there are racial issues. It's unfortunate, but that's how we see it."
Phone calls for Habib Manjee, the general manager and licensee of the club, were not returned Saturday. There was no comment on the negotiations from the operators of Silk Exotic.
The owners of Silk Exotic, who operate clubs on the West Side, in Juneau and in Madison, have been trying for years to get a license to operate in Downtown Milwaukee. Neighbors and Downtown organizations have universally opposed the applications. In 2011, it was reported that Wisconsin Avenue may be in the mix. The latest possible location discussed is across from the BMO Harris Bradley Center, at the former Center Court sports bar.
Bauman has been somewhere in the middle of the whole debate, working behind the scenes while trying not to anger residents and organizations in Downtown neighborhoods.
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