If you're the owner of a Houston strip club that's slated to reopen Thursday, probably the last thing you want to see are media reports that the club may actually be controlled by an ex-Mafia boss (and alleged admitted murderer) who's in the witness-protection program.
On Monday, the New York Daily News reported that "mob rat" Vincent Palermo is the real man in charge at the Galleria-area Penthouse Club, which is planning to reopen Thursday after the City of Houston successfully sued to shut it down for a year. This was followed by the first of a two-part KPRC story on Palermo.
The city sued to shutter the club after undercover officers made a series of prostitution and drug-related arrests, city attorney Don Cheatham told Hair Balls.
"[Sexually oriented businesses] tend to produce certain types of criminal activity. In the Penthouse case, we had about ten cases of prostitution that were made in there, and about an equal number of drug cases that were made....We offered that as proof in the civil trial, and that's why we got an injunction against their operation," he said.
That injunction, Cheatham said, also stated that the property does not qualify for a sexually oriented business permit under current city ordinance.
Jeff Stoller, head of global licensing for the Penthouse Club franchise, told KPRC that the club will not be a sexually oriented business, as defined by the ordinance. But when Hair Balls tried to ask Stoller why anybody would pay strip club prices when they wouldn't get the full strip club experience, Stoller said he was no longer commenting.
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We also sent that question, and others -- along the lines of, "Do you think the alleged boss being outed from the witness protection program will have any effect on the reopening/the boss's safety?" -- to Penthouse managers, but they have yet to respond.
So, does Cheatham really think this strip club won't be a strip club?
"It depends on what kind of entertainment they offer...it depends on a lot of things," he said. "If they opened up [and] operated as a sports bar, and they didn't provide 'entertainment' as that term is defined, and they didn't do certain other things, then, yeah, they might not need a permit. But we don't know what they're going to do until we see it."
He also said: "I'm sure sooner or later, vice will pay them a visit."