There is an almost overwhelming "here we go again" feeling now that the operators of the best gentlemen's club in Milwaukee have filed a pair of applications to open another club south of Downtown.
This time, unlike the previous go-rounds, Silk may have a fairly good chance of actually opening a strip club near Downtown ... if a couple of things fall into place.
Jon Ferraro, who operates strip clubs in Milwaukee, Juneau and outside Madison, filed applications for two places, one at 505 S. 5th St., and another at 906 S. Barclay St. Both are in the district of Ald. Jose Perez.
It’s important to know that both of these places are empty buildings. The Barclay Street spot used to be the home of Club Rain, a troubled dance club. It’s a gray building that seems to almost be sitting in the middle of a desert. The 5th Street location is on the corner of Virginia, back to back with the famed Conejito’s restaurant. There is virtually nothing else on the block except a machinery factory.
I talked to Perez, who said he was neither in favor of or opposed to the club.
"I’m going to follow our process and hear what everyone has to say before I make a recommendation" he said. The first part of the process is a hearing before the License Committee of the Common Council. Chairman of the committee, Ald. Tony Zielinski, said he would schedule a hearing within 60 days.
As Perez talks to his constituents, one of the voices is going to be that of the Walker’s Point Association. I talked to John Hein, vice president of the board of directors, and Lori Gensch, a member of the board. Both emphasized they couldn’t speak for the entire association.
"I don’t think it’s the best thing for Walker’s Point," Hein said. "I don’t think it would attract the kind of people we want to attract. Personally, I don’t think it would be appropriate."
I asked him what kind of people those were, but he couldn’t come up with an answer. It was obvious in our conversation that he thought the sleaze factor would be too much for Walker’s Point.
Gensch was also opposed to the club and I suggested to her that it might be a good thing to attract more people to Walker’s Point.
"We’ve got enough people coming to Walker’s Point," she said. "We have a school right nearby and that could be a problem." It sounded like she was talking about putting naked girls in front of first graders, but the fact is that there won’t be any naked girls outside and the school she is talking about is Bradley Tech High School.
Ferraro has filed a number of applications. They have all been turned down, largely because of opposition from individuals and businesses in proposed areas. The opposition has not been huge in terms of numbers, but they have been loud and in some cases influential.
Ferraro has met with Perez and presented his case and his operational plan. And when I talked to him this week he said he wanted a chance to talk to anyone who had concerns.
"I am looking forward to an opportunity to prove myself in the Walkers Point area," Ferraro said. "If people are worried about crime I can assure them that my presence on the block will definitely decrease if not eliminate crime. Crime happens in or around vacant properties much more than around a professional business with cameras and a professional security staff.
"More traffic in the Walkers Point area will equal more revenue for all businesses. I have been in business over 11 years in three different cities and all of the surrounding neighbors may not all agree with what goes go inside of my clubs but no one has ever complained about anything that has ever happened outside of my clubs.
"As far as the exterior I am more than willing to meet with the Walker's Point association and have them design the exterior of my building at my expense so it fits in with the look that they are trying to achieve in the area. If anyone has legitimate concerns and would like to discuss them with me I can make myself available almost anytime. Feel free to call me to discuss, (414) 732-3731."
Several sources on the Common Council said that they thought the 5th street application had a pretty good chance of getting a license. One, who asked to remain unidentified, said he thought the location was pretty "easy to get behind."
Milwaukee has long had a cautious and even uncomfortable stance when it comes to places that may have some remote connection to the world of sex. This city has closed plays because of nudity, has arrested people for swearing and for doing things on stage with props. The presence of the old Princess Theater and the Ad Lib nightclub, just half a block from each other, caused no end of headaches.
Milwaukee today likes to think of itself as a progressive city, a place that welcomes entertainment and the arts and music and recreation. I’d like to think that some of the young leaders in this city would decide that anything legal that brings people to the Downtown area would be a good thing.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.