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There's a battle that goes on every day to keep the clubs open. NEW YORK — A New York City pastor who leads a congregation in a notoriously seedy neighborhood is determined to transform a shuttered strip club into their new church, and believes a recent witnessing opportunity outside the facility was a sign that God would be bringing "revival" to the city. Because Cuesta failed to obtain permission for a "substantial alteration," he lost his liquor license. Pastor Reggie even began inviting his congregation to pray with him outside Platinum Pleasures. The legitimacy of the methods being used by Salamanca to close the clubs down has been questioned by researchers and those in the industry who believe a witch-hunt is underway without much factual evidence of wrongdoing. Between and there was a murder, three stabbings, three shootings, and two bottle slashings. But "in order to further the Gospel and do more for the community, it's time that we take this building," he added.

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On most nights, a 41st Precinct police car could be seen outside the club, a use of police resources that Salamanca said distracted police from other quality-of-life issues in the neighborhood. When Cuesta took ownership of the club, he bolstered security and tried to create what he called a "high-end gentlemen's club"—the kind where "you couldn't wear sweatpants. For Salamanca, the fight isn't personal, but he holds no ill feelings towards the owners themselves.

However, the type of business they wanted to open was not appropriate for our community. In Cuesta's case, he did not notify the authorities of the temporary closure of Platinum Pleasures due to construction work. Because Cuesta failed to obtain permission for a "substantial alteration," he lost his liquor license. Once a liquor license renewal is rejected, owners must apply for a new license, which is far more challenging to obtain.

Though the women kept dancing even without a liquor license, at Platinum Pleasures the patrons stopped showing up, and in it closed its doors. If you think a strip club without liquor sounds bleak, try a strip club without meat. It's not very profitable. One prospective dancer at Platinum Pleasures was turned off by the lack of job security once the club ran into trouble with the Community Board.

Then you have to wait or find somewhere else. When I came back, it had shut down. For four years, Stutzman and his wife have been working in Hunts Point without a permanent location. His "church without walls" had grown to around 50 congregants who met in a nearby recreation center. As the owner of the building gave Stutzman a tour of the club, they came across the golden-cased shower.

A shower in the middle of a bar didn't make sense to him. Still, even standing in the presence of the shower, strip poles, and bottles of booze gathering dust, Stutzman saw a potential home for his congregation and began fundraising. He took his plans to the Community Board and Salamanca, who instantly supported him.

Noisey goes out to a strip club with members of Doughboyz Cashout. The bizarre symbolism of a strip club turning into a church was not lost on Stutzman. He used the attention he began receiving in the media to raise awareness for his church. Yet, the main barrier between Stutzman and his new church was money. He didn't have much of it. Stutzman said that when he contacted Cuesta asking to buy his lease, Cuesta named his price: Pastor Reggie even began inviting his congregation to pray with him outside Platinum Pleasures.

Lined up outside the building, the small number who showed up would put their hands on the padlocked doors and pray as cars whizzed past. Cuesta, who met with Stutzman, never believed Stutzman would raise the money required to take over the lease. I brought my price down. I did everything I was supposed to do.

When Cuesta was 18, he was a bouncer in Manhattan nightclubs and had dreamed of one day opening his own. When he finally opened his club, albeit a "high-end" strip club, he felt he found his stride as an entrepreneur. He liked the high-energy and the respect he commanded inside the walls of Platinum Pleasures. Sign up for the best of VICE, delivered to your inbox daily.

Politicians are leading a witch-hunt in Hunts Point to shut down all of the local strip clubs by revoking their liquor licenses. NEW YORK — A New York City pastor who leads a congregation in a notoriously seedy neighborhood is determined to transform a shuttered strip club into their new church, and believes a recent witnessing opportunity outside the facility was a sign that God would be bringing "revival" to the city.

The pastor and his congregation, which numbers people, have been meeting for prayer every Tuesday evening on the club's sidewalk ever since Stutzman laid eyes on the "For Sale" banner strung across the building last month. Just this past Tuesday, God sent a sign, Stutzman believes, that He has heard their prayer and that it was only a matter of time before Platinum Pleasures becomes a sacred space.

The sign came in the form of a man named Michael who was behind the wheel of a BMW and took notice of the prayer meeting. He asked if the club was still open, and I said, 'No, I'm putting my church in here. When invited to sit in Michael's car, Pastor Stutzman, who worked previously as director of chapel and compassionate care at NYC's Bowery Mission for 10 years, complied.

Stutzman added that "he was coming to go to the club but when he saw me there, God just opened his heart. It was an incredible night, you [could] just feel the presence of God in his car. Not only was it "an incredible moment" for the Assemblies of God pastor, but, as far as he is concerned, it was "a confirmation" that God, too has His sights set on Platinum Pleasures.

It's exciting," said Stutzman. Hunts Point, located in the southern part of the Bronx, is not only one of New York City's' oldest neighborhoods, but also one of its most dangerous. According to Rafael Salamanca, the Hunts Point Community Board's district manager, the main force driving criminal activity were the strip clubs in the mostly-industrial area.

But where there used to be four strip clubs, now there are none, with Platinum Pleasures being the last to go after having failed to keep patrons interested as a topless juice bar upon losing its liquor license last year. He credited partnerships with elected officials who helped convince the state liquor authority to revoke and cancel the topless entertainment bars' licenses.

The hard work has paid off, he added, as Hunts Points has become a safer place. The fighting, shootings, the stabbings that were coming out of these clubs, has decreased. That should be the case with the police department, they should be addressing our quality of life, not playing security guards for these clubs because they cannot control their customers after-hours," said Salamanca.

Based on the community's efforts over the years, it appears likely that Mr. Wedge, the lone remaining bikini bar in town, has its days numbered. Stutzman, who launched Real Life Church with this wife in Hunts Point in and has lived in New York City for the last 17 years, said that although the area was "slowly coming up," "getting better" and becoming gentrified, the heavily low-income neighborhood was still known as "the armpit of the Bronx.

Despite grassroots movements, the creation of jobs, and the renovation of parks, Stutzman admitted that Hunts Points still has a ways to go in shedding the "negative overtones that it's had for generations. As for Real Life Church, Stutzman said he believes that finally having a church home after four years will empower members to do even more for the community, such as provide an after-school program.

Members have been holding Sunday services at the Hunts Point Recreational Center and doing outreach work, like feeding thousands annually with a Thanksgiving meal and hosting vacation Bible school every summer, which last year saw 60 kids out of get baptized.

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When he finally opened his club, albeit a "high-end" strip club, he felt he found his stride as an entrepreneur. Platinum Pleasures, which hasn't opened yet due to renovations, is an especially toxic location because it's close to the Bruckner Expressway and attracts truckers and prostitution. VICE Elsewhere. Stutzman, who said he does not mind the potential stigma of worshiping God in a former place of debauchery, said he was thankful to have gone without a building for so long, as it "kind of forced us to be out" in the community. In , Justice Brennan warned that the doctrine "could set the court on a road that will lead to the evisceration of First Amendment freedoms.

Bronx topless bars Platinum Pleasures and Club Heat feeling heat from Community Board 2:

In that case, Cuesta said, "I would have a regular club, just have bikini dancing, probably something like that. For four years, Stutzman and his wife have been working in Hunts Point without a permanent location. Instead of going after the clubs themselves, they went after their liquor licenses. The legitimacy of the methods being used by Salamanca to close the clubs down has been questioned by researchers and those in the industry who believe a witch-hunt is underway without much factual evidence of wrongdoing. The energetic minister said turning a strip club into a church would be a symbolic venture. A shower in the platinum pleasures bronx of a bar didn't make sense to him. He took his plans to the Community Board and Salamanca, who instantly supported him.

STRIPPERS CLUB DIVA IN BRONX NYC WITH "BLACK ROSE"

Salamanca's campaign to rid his neighborhood of topless entertainment is part of his wider effort to change perceptions about Hunts Point both from within the community and outside of it. But "in order to further the Gospel and do more for the community, it's time that we take this building," he added. Now the strip club could become a church. His "church without walls" had grown to around 50 congregants who met in a nearby recreation center.


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