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Planning Board Denies Cheerleaders Request for Change of Use

By Linda Boker-Angelo

NEWS Correspondent

After having an additional month to review the applicable ordinances, members of the Gloucester City Planning Board last6a00d8341bf7d953ef011571048b78970c-320wi week decided that Cheerleaders, a go-go establishment on Route 130, did not meet the criteria to be considered a “pre-existing, non-con-forming use.”

The issue had been sparked by the state’s decision in November not to renew the go-go bar’s liquor license.

(Note: If you recall the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) revoked the owner’s license following a horrific traffic accident involving a patron of Cheerleaders, Humberto Herrera-Salas. The owners appealed the ABC’s decision. In November 2008 the appellate court agreed that the bar served alcohol to Herrera-Salas, even though he was intoxicated.

According to court documents on April 15, 2000, Herrera-Salas was ejected from the bar and drove south in the northbound lanes of Route 130, crashing head-on into another car.

Robert, 42, and Patricia Reed, 40, of Gloucester City were killed and two other people in their car were seriously injured.

Herrera-Salas was sentenced to 22 years in prison.)

Club owners were no longer going to be able to serve alcohol, thereby changing the nature of the property’s use, leaving the adult entertainment business in question.

Business Owner Frank Antico planned to shift the bar to a “bring your own bottle” set up, which would allow patrons to bring in their own beer and wine, purchased elsewhere, and the club’s wait staff would then serve it back to them while they took in the entertainment.

However, an ordinance had been adopted in the late 1980s, which prohibited adult entertainment establishments.

Any such businesses that pre-dated the law were able to continue operating, but no new adult clubs could open. As the specific use of this property was potentially changing, owners needed the Board’s approval to continue operating as a pre-existing, non-conforming business.

Last month, attorneys submitted copies of deeds showing that the property has been home to a go-go bar since 1976.

Testimony was given by individuals who have patronized the establishment, under different ownerships, from that time to the present, as to the kind of entertainment, food and drink that was offered.

Club representatives ma-intained that the nature of the business has been consistent, with the exception that food is no longer prepared on site. Patrons have the option of ordering in food from several local restaurants, which is then served to them by Cheerleaders’ employees.

Antico, who has been in the business for 16 years, said he felt it best to leave the food service “to the professionals,” and that by offering to bring in take-out for his customers to complement the entertainment provided, he was delivering the best possible total product.

However, as it turned out, this change in the business was the very reason each of the board members gave for voting to not approve Cheerleaders as a pre-existing, non-conforming use.

Board Chairman Frank Wunsch invited the applicant the opportunity to return next month to apply for a use variance, which would allow the business to continue operating, even though it is technically not within the parameters defined by City ordinance.

Attorneys declined the offer, stating that the matter would instead have to be settled in court.

In other matters, the Board approved an application submitted by Charles Semola, who owns a rental property in the 500 block of Broadway.

The building currently houses a jewelry store and an efficiency apartment on the first floor, and a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor. Semola requested permission to eliminate the efficiency and expand the store area.

Semola explained that his tenant, Esti Jewelers, needs more space and would need to relocate the business if unable to expand in the current space.

Semola said that Esti is an excellent tenant and he would like to keep them to stay on. The request was unanimously approved by board members.

The Planning Board’s next meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. on March 17 in City Hall, 313 Monmouth St.

source Gloucester City News

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