London councillor slams city staff over strip club ‘mistake’

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Tensions flared, and the mayor gave one councillor a warning, in a heated debate Tuesday over a strip club and massage parlour planned for London’s east end.

Coun. Bill Armstrong demanded city staff identify the person “responsible” for failing to inform council the business licence for the former Famous Flesh Gordon’s — one of four possible adult live entertainment locations in London — could have been revoked when the site sat vacant during parts of 2015 and 2016.

The site is in Armstrong’s ward.

“This, in my mind, is probably the biggest mistake that I can remember. Ever. This is a very serious mistake,” he said. “It’s not a rosy picture. It’s not a rosy picture at all.”

He slammed staff, suggesting they “dropped the ball,” before Mayor Matt Brown warned and asked Armstrong to step back from his microphone.

Other councillors defended staff, arguing council bears at least some blame for allowing the chance to strip the licence to pass by.

“All of us who are councillors have to take some responsibility for the bylaws that we pass,” Coun. Jesse Helmer said, adding he thought it wasn’t appropriate to “push it all on (staff).”

Armstrong fired back at Helmer.

“There’s no blame here. I don’t monitor licences in the community, that’s not a councillor’s job,” he said, adding council will face the ire of east-end residents.

City manager Martin Hayward pointed out staff dealing with bylaws and licensing have been under strain, especially busy dealing with taxi bylaws and Uber.

“Would staff accept some of the blame? Absolutely, we make judgment calls,” he said.

“I would just like council to recognize there has been a lot of pressure on this area as well. As we go forward we would certainly like to look at this process and see if we can’t do things differently.”

Council unanimously received the staff report for information, but options for dealing with the strip club at this point are limited.

George Nikopoulos, under Paris Clubs Corp., is renovating the site at 2190 Dundas St. E.

City staff would be obligated to issue a licence if the work passes inspection, unless council decides to reduce the number of adult entertainment sites in the city. That requires a publicly advertised meeting, which is set for Aug. 28.

Nikopoulous has said he’s confident the strip club and body parlour will beat that deadline and open before the end of August.

Council also received a letter from Nikopoulos’ lawyer, Christos Vitsentzatos, who said his client would be willing to negotiate to find an alternative site.

The city is “boxed in,” and the focus now should be reviewing its adult entertainment bylaws in the city, Coun. Stephen Turner said.

“Right now we’re very restricted and I don’t think it’s very productive for us to be pointing fingers in any direction.”

mstacey@postmedia.com


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