Licenses OK’d for prospective Castaway buyers

  • Club Castaway at the corner of Christian Lane and Routes 5&10 in Whately. May 30, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/28/2018 12:11:19 AM

WHATELY — The prospective buyers of the Castaway Lounge have cleared a major hurdle.

On Wednesday, in the third hour of the third public hearing on this endeavor, the Whately Selectboard approved a new nude entertainment license and the transfer of a liquor license to the prospective buyers, two Boston real estate developers.

One of the hopeful owners, who plans to be the site manager, has said he will move to Whately. His girlfriend was in attendance as well, at a sparsely attended hearing at the Whately Elementary School.

When it came down to vote on the issuing of a new adult entertainment license (which are nontransferable by nature), Selectboard member Frederick Orloski readily voted in favor, after taking a stand that he had not heard recent objections from people in town.

Then, Selectboard Chairman Jonathan Edwards, who is running for state representative, and Selectboard member Joyce Palmer-Fortune hesitated.

Both Edwards and Palmer-Fortune had already delivered speeches in the minutes prior, denouncing their favor of the strip club in town.

“I haven’t talked to anyone in town who has said, ‘Yay, yay, I want a strip club in this town,” Palmer-Fortune said.

She added, “I want it on the record. This is something that we really struggled with.”

Edwards brought up having an 11-year-old daughter, and not liking that she and her friends could know what’s going on inside the Castaway Lounge.

Yet, he heeded to Town Counsel’s acknowledgement that denying the license could lead to litigation, as suggested by the prospective buyers’ attorney, Tom Lesser — who said he could take this straight to federal court on the grounds of a civil rights violation for denying a first amendment right.

“Unfortunately we have a constitution and this is freedom of speech,” Edwards said. “But it’s awful.”

The Selectboard went through dozens of conditions regarding both the liquor and entertainment licenses to ensure the strip club will be run up to standards and expectations.

Despite a request for the Christian Lane location, often referred to around the county as the “Whately Ballet,” to extend its hours to 2 a.m., it will continue its current hours, as run by the outgoing Demetrious ” Jimmy the Greek” Konstantopoulos.

There were several conditions drafted up in a private meeting between the prospective buyers, the abutters to the property and the Town Administrator.

To address noise concerns, an agreement was made to build an 8-foot wall near the smoking area. This is to trap the noise, and also could act as a deterrent to people crossing the swamp and into a neighbor’s backyard.

Four parking spaces will be eliminated to address sight lines. During the private meeting held Monday, the abutters and buyers talked about eliminating one or two spaces.

Edwards and Palmer-Fortune ultimately disagreed with this. They thought more spots needed to go. They consulted the police chief, James Sevigne Jr., who said only one spot needed to be moved. Edwards and Lesser exchanged words rapidly on their differing opinions. Palmer-Fortune brought out a Google satellite image of the parking lot, which was a four-minute drive from the public hearing. They then crowded around the computer screen. Later, Edwards decided it should be four spaces, to which the board agreed.

Hold up?

A question over a variance could hold up the deal though, based on discussions between the board and the prospective buyers.

There was significant debate over a variance to essentially waive the current town law that says a police officer needs to be present at all times at the club. While this is the current law, it has not been enforced, at least not while Sevigne has been there.

Sevigne said it could cost $650 per day if he had to hire someone to run that detail at the club. This cost would likely be placed on the buyers. Lesser said the cost of the security detail could hinder the purchase.

When asked if this variance could prevent the purchase of the club, Spagnola said, “We have a comprehensive security plan that will deter unlawful behavior and we believe that our investment in well-trained security staff is all the company needs to maintain order in the establishment.”

The chief repeatedly told the board he did not see it necessary to have a detail at the strip club all the time while it was in normal operation, but Edwards and Palmer-Fortune were not convinced.

The board felt it needed more time to figure out this variance. Lesser disagreed, saying Palmer-Fortune and Edwards were just making decisions based on their feelings and not on testimony.

The board decided to kick the talk of a variance to its next meeting, July 11, because it wasn’t ready to make a decision.

Edwards took it a step further, saying instead of holding another meeting to decide on the variance, to hold it at a Special Town Meeting.

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