Two petitions circulated Tuesday night at the , and during the public participation period of the township council meeting, Anna Jezycki assured council there were plenty of others in circulation.
All the petitions have to do with the gentlemen’s club coming to Galloway Township.
At a planning board meeting last month, Galloway business owner Perry Stamelos announced he would be bringing a high-scale gentlemen’s club to the township, opening it where the Vienna Inn Banquet Hall is currently located, adjacent to Christina’s Restaurant and Bar on the White Horse Pike.
The club is subject to restrictions because it is within 1,000 feet of a residential area, and Stamelos has a liquor license for the adjacent property. Those restrictions include no nudity and no contact between patrons and performers.
Because the club falls under the label of “live entertainment” and is not classified as a “sexually oriented business,” the township and its residents have no legal standing on which to oppose it.
However, as many residents stated repeatedly, township residents also don’t have to give the club their business.
“Their hands are tied, but ours are not,” Jezycki said of council. “When (Stamelos) sees (the business at) his other establishments reduce, maybe he won’t open this club.”
“I have a petition circulating to not support Mr. Stamelos’ other businesses, like the Galloway Diner, the Phoenix Diner and Perry’s Tavern,” Pastor Tom Douglass of said.
Douglass stood before council and read a letter in which he described protecting the family atmosphere of Galloway Township and the ways in which the gentleman’s club will feed the sexual addiction of some residents.
“If you think there will be no sexual favors, you’ve got your head in the sand,” Douglass said. “And don’t think there won’t be some side work done outside the club that was generated inside the club.
“So now prostitution has moved off the streets and into an upscale club. Are the girls safer? Possibly. But is the community safer? Are our families safer? Absolutely not.”
Douglass and Denise Fischer each had petitions circulating at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“I’ve talked to men and women at , and ,” Fischer said. “This club will bring moral degradation and it will bring the crime up. There will be a restaurant attached to this building, and there will be a transition for 15-year-old boys at the restaurant to become 17-year-olds going to the club. This club should go to Atlantic City.”
, but Fischer’s husband, Mark, stated after the meeting that he and his wife don’t live near the spot where the club will be established, but that doesn’t stop their opposition to it.
During the meeting, he spoke about exploring every avenue to stop the club from coming to Galloway Township, and if that wasn’t possible, to at least prevent future businesses similar to the proposed gentlemen’s club from coming to the township.
One resident spoke about a similar club that previously existed on Tilton Road, and the problems it brought to the township before it was eventually shut down.
“These places drop property values, raise the crime rates and raise the sex crime rates,” Mark Fischer said. “This is all about money. It has nothing to do with the First Amendment.
“We can’t let him stand on the First Amendment alone.”
But as the council stated previously, this isn’t an issue it is capable of handling. Deputy Mayor Don Purdy reminded those residents opposed to the club that they should take their complaints to the state, as it is a state statute that is allowing the club to be established in Galloway.
“I believe it’s wrong, but your group needs to get with the incoming assembly people (from District 9),” Purdy said. “It needs to change in Trenton. The last thing I want to do is get people into a $100,000 or $200,000 lawsuit that we’re going to lose.”
He added he would be willing to sign the petition, however.
“My wife recently put it into perspective for me,” Councilman Dennis Kleiner said. “Years ago when she was a young girl, Red Barn was coming to Egg Harbor City. She and her relatives from St. Nicks Parish protested and protested to try and stop it. They tried, but it’s still there. It’s( the gentlemen's club) going to come, and unless it’s unsuccessful as a business, it will be there.”
“The owner has his rights, but the resident has rights, too,” Mayor Keith Hartman said. “You have the right to not go there, and you have the right to protest.”
The sentiment was echoed several times, including by resident Jeff Connelly.
“Not everything that is permissible is beneficial,” Connelly said. “If we don’t want it to be there, we need to make sure it never gets visited.”