Nude Bar Continues to Survive--on Soft Drinks

Staff Writer

It has been more than a year since state Alcoholic Beverage Control officials revoked the liquor license of a nude bar that once boasted of "live, nude girls on two stages" and openly defied the agency's ban against serving booze where there is totally nude entertainment.

Residents near the Shanghai Lady on Western Avenue and Torrance Boulevard in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles congratulated themselves then on a successful yearlong campaign to have the license revoked.

But much to their disappointment, the Shanghai Lady continues to operate, albeit with soft drinks, juices and non-alcoholic beer and wine.

Phil Henry, the Alcoholic Beverage Control investigator who filed complaints against the bar two weeks after it opened in September, 1982, said he is surprised that Shanghai Lady has remained open.

"I don't know if they are making any money," he said. "Maybe they have a long-term lease or something that requires them to stay there."

No Jurisdiction

Henry said residents still call him with updates on the bar, but since it no longer has a liquor license, he has no jurisdiction over it.

Lin Anderson, chairwoman of the Citizens Against Smutty Environments, a group of local homeowners that picketed the bar soon after it opened, said surprise is not the word to describe how she feels about the bar's continued operation.

"It's more like irritated," she said, complaining that crowds at the bar have dwindled, but drinking continues in the parking lot, and younger patrons can be admitted.

"Certainly not everyone who goes into a nude bar is a dirt bag, but it does attract that element," Anderson said.

"A disparaging attitude toward women is being fostered there." Bar owner Frank Brown said business is down from when the bar first opened with 35 dancers/waitresses and five staff members, but he would not say how much.

Fewer Personnel

During a recent lunch period there were one dancer and three waitresses to serve about 10 customers. When the bar first opened there were at least two dancers and six waitresses, and the lunch crowd was typically 30 to 40.

Business has been at least good enough for Brown to apply a new coat of paint to his building--white with blue trim--and there are now large capital letters in shocking pink that spell NUDE.

And while patrons can no longer enjoy a cold beer, Shanghai Lady now offers hourly "house dances" where the waitresses come to the patrons' tables and dance topless.

But while the business is surviving without a liquor license, Brown's problems are not over. In addition to a pending court case over an alleged liquor violation by some of his employees, there are attempts to force the bar to move or close.

Proposed Law

Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson has proposed an ordinance that would require all existing adult entertainment businesses less than 500 feet--or just under a city block--from residential areas to move the required distance within two years. Shanghai Lady abuts a residential area in the rear and is across the street from an apartment complex.

The proposed ordinance will go to the Planning Commission within two months and then to the full City Council.

The Shanghai Lady situation also served as the source for a new state law that was introduced by Assemblyman Curtis R. Tucker (D-Inglewood) and signed by the governor last year. The law gives the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control injunctive power to temporarily revoke a liquor license during the appeal process to prevent quick profits by bar owners.

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