Nightclub denied request to expand

DOWNEY - Concerned about a relatively high number of fights and assaults, the city's Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously rejected expansion plans by Club DB Lounge, at the same time denying the nightclub's request for permission to hire scantily-clad go-go dancers. Formerly a billiard hall, Club DB Lounge at 8206 Firestone Blvd. was looking to expand into a vacant retail space next door, where it would add a bar, new dance floor and an outdoor patio area for smokers.

Representatives for business owner Hayk Gevorkyan said the club intended to use the 2800 sq. ft. expanded space to lower its costs during weekdays, when the nightclub is not at capacity. On weekends, it would allow the club to offer different music choices for its customers.

The added square footage would also enable the club to install additional bathrooms and storage space, while removing four existing billiard tables in an upstairs mezzanine.

The patio area would have protected smokers who currently light up in the parking lot, Gevorkyan said.

Last year, planning commissioners granted Club DB a conditional use permit that established guidelines for the club's dance floor, DJ, live music and karaoke. However, it forbid the nightclub from hiring go-go dancers, which Gevorkyan had been utilizing without permits.

Removing the go-go dancers led to a subsequent drop in revenue and "are essential for the business to succeed," Gevorkyan said.

His representatives on Wednesday - using the term "professional dancers" instead of go-go - were willing to compromise on dancers' hours and outfits, and asked for a six-month trial period. The dancers would be perched on platforms situated on top of tall speakers.

Planning commissioners and city planners, however, expressed concern that "the image of scantily-clad women dancing on raised platforms was not a desirable image for the downtown area."

Mostly though, commissioners were concerned about police activity at Club DB. According to Capt. Dean Milligan of the Downey Police Department, 38 "incidents" were reported at Club DB in 2012. Police have responded to the club nine times in 2013, including to an assault last weekend that left a drunken man beaten in the parking lot.

Club officials countered that crime at its business dropped more than 50 percent between 2011 and 2012. Last weekend's incident, they said, resulted from club security doing its job when they refused entry to a 19-year-old man who attempted to enter the club already intoxicated.

The club also enforces a dress code and refuses entry to customers dressed in gang attire, officials there said.

Commissioners were not convinced and voted 5-0 to deny all of Club DB's requests.

In their comments, commissioners insinuated they would be open to the expansion plans if crime at the nightclub decreased.

"Our main concern is for the well-being of Downey residents," said commissioner Robert Kiefer. Club DB has the option of appealing to the city council although it is unclear if they will do so.

Meanwhile, The Wet Bar, at 8832 Imperial Hwy., had its expansion plans approved with no problems.

After celebrating its soft opening last week, The Wet Bar is adding 1,295 square feet by leasing the empty retail space next door. The added space will allow the lounge to expand the bar area and make room for additional customers.

According to floor plans, the expansion will include a bar counter with stools, a walk-in cooler, an employee locker room, a wine storage area, and restrooms.

City planners recommended the expansion's approval, noting it has "reviewed the request and does not have any issues with the operation of the business."

Commissioners gave The Wet Bar high praise, labeling it a high-scale lounge rather than a bar. "It took about three seconds to see it wasn't just another dive bar," said commissioner Matias Flores, who visited the lounge last week.

Commissioner Jim Rodriguez also offered praise, calling The Wet Bar "incredible and far from a bar." "They have a strict dress policy, valet parking...they are keeping the clientele that we need," he said.

The Wet Bar utilizes a valet parking service, which officials said is also effective at curbing drunk driving. Customers are able to leave their cars at the property overnight and take a cab home if necessary.

"We're here to add value to the city and obviously add value to the business," said co-owner Hector Lozano.

The Wet Bar's expansion plans received unanimous approval.

********** Published: April 4, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 51