New owner looks to revive Mr. Wedge without old stigma
Community Board 2 approved the liquor license of Hunts Point’s last remaining adult entertainment club – Mr. Wedge — with a yawn, with only one person coming out to voice her disapproval.
After years of trying to shut down strip clubs in the neighborhood, it seems few residents are bothered by this last hold-out.
“What is Mr. Wedge?” asked the crossing guard for PS 48, as she guided a group of students in the middle of the intersection of Spofford and Hunts Point avenues. From that vantage point, an awning with the word “Wedge” was barely hidden behind a leafless tree just a block down.
The owner, for his part, is just keeping his head down and hoping to stay as unobtrusive as possible.
“I want to fit in the neighborhood, I don’t want to make any noise,” said Mike Diaz, 53, the new owner of Mr. Wedge.
The previous owner, Alfred Rivera, died last year and after talking with his widow for months, Diaz was able to take over the business.
Community Board 2 approved Diaz’s renewal of the business’ liquor license at its October meeting. Diaz proved himself to the board with a professional resume that showed decades of “top-flight management” in this type of businesses all over the city, and by answering all the questions and providing all the paperwork required by the board, according to Peter Rosado, acting chair of the community board’s Liquor and Franchising Committee.
“Only one lady voiced negative opinion, but that’s the voice I heard the most,” said Diaz.
Rosado says that small business owners in the district should be supported, even ones that are in the adult entertainment business.
“I did not want to hold Mike responsible for previous owners being irresponsible,” said Rosado. “I wanted to give him a chance to succeed.” He also noted there are a lot of adult entertainment establishments that operate all over the country without problems.
Councilmember Rafael Salamanca’s office stated that Mr. Wedge has “no recent report of violent activity surrounding the establishment” and is different from the other venues the council member, in his previous role as district manager, fought so hard to close. The dancers at Mr. Wedge will not be nude or topless; instead they will be wearing fashionable lingerie and exotic dancewear.
“The way Diaz described it, everything would be very go-go ish” Rosado said.
Diaz, with his nothing-to-hide attitude, wants to be a good neighbor and is striving to build a good relationship with institutions in the community, such as the community board, and by giving his number to “everybody,” including the precinct, where he donated one of the pool tables taken out of the club during renovations. “They really appreciated it,” he said.
He says his business provides light and security at night to an otherwise desolate area, and that he is supporting local businesses by purchasing beer and food from local purveyors, as well as catering from a local restaurant and ordering flyers and notices from a printer on Southern Boulevard.
He also took down big outside awnings put on by the previous owner that showed women in sexual positions when he realized the distance to PS 48 on Spofford Avenue. The club opens at noon, but still, few parents knew about it.
“It’s not that close to the school,” said María Rivera, 35, about its proximity to PS 48, where she stood outside to pick up her kid, and has seen it open “only at night.” The club is one block over and a half a block down from the school.
Diaz wants “just the right kind of customers,” those that “come enjoy the inside of the club, come enjoy the girls, watch sports on TV, have a few beers, forget about their problems, just have a good time, relax and meet other people.”
According to Rosado, many changes for the positive have been noted since Diaz took over, including detailed logs, employee background checks, an A grade from the Department of Health and more hands-on management.
“As we get cleaner and better, the quality of people that come through gets better,” Diaz said.
Eventually Díaz would like to change the name to Club W so people don’t know what it is.
“I have a 15-year lease. I don’t want to go anywhere,” Diaz said, “and I don’t want people to want us to leave.”