Silk Exotic owners open to alternate location for downtown strip club, attorney says

Will wait until May 31 to begin work on Old World Third

730 N. Old World Third is where Silk owners are planning to open a strip club.

Representatives for Silk Exotic are working with a Milwaukee business coalition to find an alternative site for their planned downtown strip club.

Jeff Scott Olson, Silk’s attorney, said the group was more interested in obtaining a license for a downtown club, than the specific location.

730 N. Old World Third is where Silk owners are planning to open a strip club.

Now that the Common Council voted 10-5 on Tuesday to grant Silk a license to open a strip club at 730 N. Old World Third, the owners will consider other locations, Olson said.

Former Milwaukee Alderman Michael D’Amato, working as a consultant on behalf of Silk, has been in talks with the Wisconsin Avenue Milwaukee Development Corp. LLC., known as WAM DC, the nonprofit group helps with redevelopment projects on West Wisconsin Avenue, since Friday about alternate sites. The Silk owners have agreed to work with WAM DC for a month to consider alternate sites for a downtown strip club.

“Our clients will take no action toward putting a nail in the wall (at 730 N. Old World Third) until the time we have agreed to work with this business group expires,” Olson said.

Whether or not Silk is serious about finding an alternative site is unclear, said Stephen Chernof, a real estate attorney with Godfrey & Kahn who chairs WAM DC.

The story has changed repeatedly since Friday, when Silk representatives said there were no other locations available, to now providing a long list of criteria for a strip club location, including needing a space larger than 7,500 square feet and a basement (although the space at 730 N. Old World Third is smaller), to now being flexible and wanting to work to find a location, Chernof said.

“I’m happy to be helpful but it’s hard when you have several conflicting messages to take someone seriously,” Chernof said. “I don’t want to chase my tail for three weeks when part of me thinks this is just posturing to make themselves look good.”

The downtown strip club will be owned by Radomir Buzdum and Silk Exotic owners Joe Modl and Scott Krahn. They sued the city after their repeated attempts to open a strip club downtown were denied. City officials recently worked out a deal in which the lawsuits would be dropped if the license was approved.

Attorneys for Silk estimate their lawsuits totaled at least $10 million, with the price tag growing by the day. The calculations were made with damages determined at the first trial between the city and Silk at $25,000 per month.

“We’re already 60 months in, plus there are attorney fees and two other cases pending and their costs would be similar,” Olsen said. “This has never been about money. It is about the First Amendment and the freedom of people to express themselves how they choose.”

Downtown Alderman Robert Bauman who has been a vocal opponent of the club at 730 N. Old World Third, says he believes the Common Council traded a license in exchange for dropping a lawsuit, which will open the door for more strip clubs downtown.

“Other club owners throughout the city are watching all of this and evaluating the wisdom of seeking an exotic dancing Public Entertainment Premises license if for no other reason than to simply hedge their bets and allow a change in entertainment given the huge profits we now know are generated by strip clubs,” Bauman said. “My colleagues repeatedly stated that Silk was going to collect up to $10 million and even $20 million in damages for lost profits. Holy cow, $20 million in lost profits for the five or six  years they were unable to operate. People in the night club business have taken notice.”

Habib Mangee, owner of the Ladybug Club, also known as 618 Live on Water, recently submitted an application to add strippers to his club. That application is expected to be voted on next month.

Bauman said he will support this application because the club, which has had 84 police reports filed against it since opening in 2005, could not get much worse.

Olson said the Ladybug Club is not a location that the Silk owners would consider.

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