TAMPA — City officials hope to punish a Drew Park strip club after what police describe as years of drug dealing, prostitution and gang activity there.
Flash Dancers, 4202 W. Cayuga St., has become a public nuisance, Assistant City Attorney Michael Schmid argues in a complaint filed with the city’s Nuisance Abatement Board.
The board meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the City Council chambers at Old City Hall to hear the complaint and decide what should happen to the club owned by Richard Bavota of Odessa. Flash Dancers’ landlords are Antonio and Nora Candy Serrano. Neither they nor Bavota could be reached for comment Monday.
Flash Dancers was the site of a 2011 incident in which a guard shot a patron after the two got into an argument and the patron threw a bottle at the security guard.
Last year, the club was again the scene of a shooting in which one man died.
Two days after that shooting, on Oct. 31, 2012, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor sent Bavota a letter informing him the businesses was being used for criminal activity and he faced action by the city if the activity didn’t stop.
In his complaint, Schmid says the Serranos and Bavota failed to put a halt to the illegal activities at the club.
Tampa police reported that undercover officers and confidential informants bought cocaine and were offered sex at the club as recently as last summer as part of an part of an investigation that dates back to 2008.
On at least one occasion, two of the club’s dancers sold cocaine to a police source over the bar in full view of the bartender, the complaint says.
The complaint also says the Latin Kings gang used the club for drug-dealing and other activities.
“Flash Dancers has continued to operate as a public nuisance even after multiple warnings that the business needed to stop illegal activities,” Schmid says in his complaint. “These violations have been going on for a period of years and many of these violations are open and obvious.”
The city complaint doesn’t spell out what remedy Tampa is seeking. Police are not interested in seeing it shut down, said spokeswoman Laura McElroy.
“The police department is not in the business of shutting down bars,” McElroy said. “The goal is ensure Flash Dancers creates a safe environment for patrons that doesn’t tolerate criminal activity. If we can achieve that by improving safety standards in the establishment, then it’s a win win for everyone.”