Upscale Manhattan strip club Scores West has been known to attract many controversial customers over the years, most notably silver-tongued radio shock jock Howard Stern and booze-embattled actress-in-distress Lindsay Lohan.
According to the nightclub’s attorney, the Chelsea hotspot was also once a regular hangout for a perhaps more polarizing patron: NYPD officer Michael Oliver.
Mr. Oliver, who’s presently facing manslaughter charges, is more often associated with the Kalua Cabaret, a somewhat less swanky topless bar in Queens, where, prosecutors say, he fired 31 shots of the reported 50-bullet barrage that tragically capped off would-be groom Sean Bell’s bachelor party last fall.
Mr. Oliver’s reputation at Scores West may not have been as brutal, although he allegedly “demanded certain favors” and also “indicated that anybody that was with him was to be given these favors,” the club’s lawyer, Martin Mehler, has claimed in court papers.
Name-dropping the police department’s latest persona non grata appears to be part of Scores’ stripper defense counsel’s accuse-the-accusers strategy: “We believe that over the past year undercover police officers of the vice squad have intimidated my client and have demanded that they be given, actually, full access to the premises without having to have to pay for any of the services that they participate in within Scores,” Mr. Mehler has said.
Exactly what favors and services the lawyer hasn’t said. Considering that this is the same police department that slapped four of the club’s dancers and two of its managers with prostitution charges this past January, one can safely assume that he’s not talking about the $25 souvenir key chains with the Scores logo.
The wild accusations have come off almost as quickly as the clothing, with undercover officers reportedly revealing lurid courtroom tales of male patrons with pants around their ankles partying privately in dark back rooms attended by fully nude female entertainers. (NYPD declined to comment on the ongoing proceedings.)
Tensions have run so high in the wake of the cops’ highly publicized Jan. 25 raid on the place that the State Liquor Authority (S.L.A.) decided to relocate its usually dull administrative proceedings to a more “secure location” after a heated hearing in April at the authority’s Harlem headquarters erupted in a melee.
An undercover cop on the witness stand, barely one minute into telling his account, claimed that he “heard a click” and alleged that somebody from the Scores camp may have snapped a cover-blowing picture of him, according to a transcript. That “click” set off a series of events that Mr. Mehler, frustrated by a judge’s repeated refusal to allow Scores dancers to face their covert accusers, has described as “two hours of chaos,” with cops confronting Scores attorneys, Scores owners fleeing the scene and Scores supporters allegedly “being held hostage.”
“Witnesses were threatened with arrest and were harassed and abused by the police,” according to an affidavit. “Cameras and a cell phone documenting the abuse that occurred in the hallway of the Premises were taken by police officers and the pictures were erased.”
Scores manager Harvey Osher reportedly ended up in the hospital after the dust-up (and his bed-ridden picture in the New York Post), though his purported injuries later proved only minor.
The two sides are scheduled to tangle again on Aug. 29 in Manhattan Civil Court.
STRIKING A TOUGH POSE under chairman Daniel Boyle, the liquor board has stuck to its threats to strip Scores of the club’s sexy license to sling pricey drinks as a direct result of the prostitution rap—goodbye, Champagne Room!—a move Scores boss Richard Goldring has woefully declared “will put my company out of business.”
Mr. Goldring is now not only suing the S.L.A. to prevent the revocation but also the S.L.A.’s landlord, the Bruce Ratner-built Harlem Center Office building, to stop security camera footage of the April fracas from being erased or destroyed in anticipation of even more litigation in the near future.
Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Mr. Goldring and his associates might be looking to unload the sprawling 10,000-square-foot stripper-plex on West 28th Street, which last sold for $10 million in 2004 and now could go for four times that sum.
“At the right price, it’s available,” said Manhattan nightclub broker Alex Picken of Picken Real Estate, who’s been marketing several other nightclub properties in a rapidly changing West Chelsea.
A converted parking garage, the Scores West building on West 28th Street sits along a former industrial strip that was recently rezoned to allow for new residential development.
Could condos soon replace the beleaguered pole-dancing palace? Would each condo come equipped with its own stripper pole?
Mr. Goldring’s current fight-or-flight plight could also bode badly for another Manhattan booze seller soon to face the S.L.A.’s scrutiny. Giuseppe Cipriani, suave operator of eight licensed restaurants and banquet halls citywide, including Harry Cipriani on Fifth Avenue, Downtown Cipriani in SoHo and the renowned Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center, may be headed for a similar regulatory purgatory.
The two besieged hospitality honchos have much in common. Tax violations, for instance: Mr. Goldring last year pleaded guilty to falsifying tax returns and business records on $3.1 million in income sheltered through bogus shell companies; Mr. Cipriani pled guilty earlier this month to falsifying tax forms on some $10 million concealed through bogus license fees sheltered in a Luxembourg bank, a rap that just weeks later spurred a separate investigation by the S.L.A. (Felonious restaurateurs generally are not allowed to sell liquor.)
Then again, Mr. Cipriani may also see glimmers of hope in his fellow convicted fraudster’s still-enduring G-string empire, which not only includes Scores West, but the original Scores Showroom on East 60th Street, in addition to the Scores trademark, now emblazoned on nightclubs in other cities.
Despite his conviction, Mr. Goldring was bestowed with the hallowed “Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities,” which permits even a convicted felon to carry on with the booze business—provided, of course, one doesn’t again run afoul of the liquor board.
Mr. Cipriani better hope for less hectic dealings before the S.L.A.
Said Scores’ attorney Mr. Mehler: “The entire tenor of this proceeding is beyond anything I have ever seen.”