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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Hager’

After repeatedly ruling that JP’s Night Club (2412 Wisconsin Ave.) could reopen without community comment, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board last week decided to investigate the strip club’s new interior configuration before opening its doors to the public.

Since January 2008, when a fire destroyed the original JP’s building, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B has asked the ABC Board several times to consider revoking the club’s liquor license. The ANC has raised questions about the club’s changing ownership, the club’s appropriateness to an increasingly kid-centric neighborhood, and, most recently, its plans to add semi-private performance spaces to the rebuilt club’s interior. The ANC argued that these spaces would increase the likelihood of illegal hanky-panky between performers and patrons and that it constituted a substantial change from the old club’s operations. By law, any substantial change must be approved by the liquor board.

On June 5, the board denied ANC Commissioner Jackie Blumenthal’s written request to investigate the semi-private spaces as a substantial change. But on June 12, after the JP’s ownership applied to reactivate the club’s dormant license, the board decided to hold a hearing on the matter after all. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration spokesman Bill Hager did not respond to emailed requests for comment, but a knowledgeable source outside the agency says that the hearing is likely to involve testimony only from an ABRA investigator. If the liquor board determines that the new interior layout of JP’s constitutes a substantial change, it must then decide whether the change is acceptable, which might involve a second hearing with community input. If the board sees no substantial change to the bar’s operations, it would likely reactivate the liquor license, allowing the club to reopen.

The fact-finding hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 19.

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At the September 13 meeting of ANC 3B, commissioners unanimously resolved to request a formal Alcoholic Beverage Control Board hearing into the ownership of JP’s Night Club. The strip club, which has been closed since a January 2008 fire at its 2412 Wisconsin Ave. home, is in the process of reopening under new management, but the identity of the reopeners keeps changing.

“ANC3B is seeking a more open process at this point due to a series of actions, representations, and misrepresentations that have occurred in recent months pertaining to the ownership of JP’s,” the resolution states. Referring to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s rapid approval of one new owner—Brian Petruska—last year and a series of  putative new owners who have presented themselves since then, the resolution states that “the actions of ABRA initially and the contual restructuring of owners and partners” in the club’s holding company, Wisconsin Ventures LLC, “do not give us confidence that when JP’s reopens it will be managed well enough to protect the community from the secondary impacts associated with nude dancing establishments.”  ABRA has already promised to hold a protest hearing before the JP’s license is reactivated. The hearing requested by the ANC would occur prior to that.

An August 13 application to transfer the JP’s license to two new owners of Wisconsin Ventures—Jason Daniel and Philip Mathew—is “still pending the submission of additional documentation,” says ABRA spokesman Bill Hager. The ANC’s request for an ownership hearing “will go before the ABC Board for their review and consideration,” Hager added.

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On August 13, two men—Jason K. Daniel and Philip M. Mathew—applied to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to take over the liquor license for the dormant JP’s Night Club (2412 Wisconsin Ave.). On their application, the men listed themselves as the president, secretary, and managing member (Daniel) and vice president and treasurer (Mathew) of Wisconsin Ventures, LLC, the corporation that owns JP’s.

Last year, Local Man of Mystery Brian Petruska identified himself to ABRA as the president, secretary, and manager of Wisconsin Ventures. Now that Daniel holds those titles, where does that leave Petruska—let alone Paul Kadlick and Gokhan “Jake” Akkus, who in May represented themselves to ANC 3B as having bought a 90 percent share of JP’s?

We spoke to Kadlick, and he tried to explain the matryoshka doll of holding companies that now surrounds the strip club. Due to unspecified business and tax considerations, Kadlick says, he and Akkus did not end up purchasing the club directly. Instead, a partnership called The Vice Group purchased 90 percent of the shares in Wisconsin Ventures. The remaining 10 percent of the stock in Wisconsin Ventures was retained by Brian Petruska. Wisconsin Ventures owns a company called BJ Enterprises, which owns the JP’s license.

Kadlick is the authorized spokesperson for The Vice Group, but he insists that he does not hold an ownership stake in that group. Daniel and Mathew, who do hold ownership stakes, are both area nightclub promoters and managers who “are longtime associates of mine,” says Kadlick. They will be responsible for the club’s day-to-day operations, he adds. We asked Kadlick how he stood to gain from JP’s without being an owner, and he told us that the business is part of a larger structure of deals he could not discuss.

Last week, several Glover Park civic leaders sent a letter to ABRA chief Fred Moosally expressing concerns about the transfer application. In the letter, ANC commissioners Jackie Blumenthal and Brian Cohen, Glover Park Citizens’ Association president Sheila Meehan, and attorney Milton Grossman called upon ABRA to transfer the JP’s license only to “people who have demonstrated their qualification to run a legal, above-board operation.” The liquor board seems likely to go ahead with the transfer, though. In response to our inquiry, ABRA spokesman Bill Hager reminded us that, no matter who holds the license, JP’s will have to survive a public protest period before it’s allowed to reopen.

Kadlick plans to attend the September 13 ANC meeting, where he will discuss the club’s security and valet parking arrangements. He says the ANC should be reassured by his knowledge of the neighborhood and its needs. “I’m not embarrassed to tell you I’ve been a patron of JP’s for 20 years,” he says. “It’s an upscale neighborhood, and we’re going to cater to that customer.”

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