A New Haven topless club and an adjacent after-hours club will both remain closed indefinitely after a shooting Saturday that resulted in the death of a 26-year-old fashion designer.
The owner of the topless club, known as the Key Club Cabaret, asked Tuesday for a voluntary suspension of the liquor permit while state and local officials agree to meet regarding the shooting.
The Key Club Cabaret will remain closed until security issues are resolved, according to a one-page letter that was signed by John Bertini of Fuun House Productions LLC, which owns the club, and John Kraft, the permittee at the Key Club Cabaret.
“In addition, I agree to keep closed that portion of the premises known as “the Lounge,” where no alcohol is served and full body nudity is offered to patrons,” the letter stated. “I am anxious to meet with representatives from the Department of Consumer Protection, liquor control division, representatives of the New Haven Police Department and others to reassess our security and to formulate a security plan for the premises of the cafe permit premises and the business being operated as “the Lounge.” Both are located within the building at 85 Saint John Street, New Haven.”
The business, in an industrial area east of Interstate 91, was previously known as Stagedoor Johnny’s. The after-hours club was known as Backstage Johnny’s in the same building.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and New Haven mayor John DeStefano were both outraged by the shooting, and they held a high-profile press conference Saturday.
The call for action came after the death of fashion designer Erica Robinson, 26, at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday in New Haven. The shooting was adjacent to the topless club, and five New Haven residents were injured in the incident - two critically.
The state’s consumer protection commissioner, William Rubinstein, has the authority to temporarily suspend a liquor license if there are health and safety concerns under the law.
“I have the option to issue a summary suspension if the conditions warrant,” Rubinstein said Tuesday. “We didn’t get to that. … I don’t want to guess what the outcome of this will be. I think all parties will begin a dialogue as quickly as possible. I think the owners are acting constructively here.”
Both businesses will remain closed “until we have an opportunity for a full and frank discussion” about security, he said.
He added, “We think this is good for the citizens of New Haven.”
The shooting came only two months after two fatalities in separate incidents outside Up Or On The Rocks, a well-known nightspot near the Hartford train station. Those shootings prompted Harford Mayor Pedro Segarra to call for changing the state law that currently allows 18-and-over parties in nightclubs where legal drinking is permitted for those over 21.
The owners in Hartford agreed to a voluntary suspension of their permit – in the same way as is being done in New Haven now.
“They decided not to reopen the premises” in Hartford, Rubinstein said.
The New Haven fatality was the fourth club-related death this year, meaning the clubs account for 25 percent of the 16 murders in the city in 2013. The shooting prompted the press conference that was attended by Malloy, DeStefano, Police Chief Dean Esserman, and others.
DeStefano unveiled a series of proposals that received praise from Malloy, Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney of New Haven and Michael P. Lawlor, a former legislator and New Haven resident who is now Malloy’s chief adviser on criminal justice issues.