If we told you there was a strip mall in L.A. where guys could spend the day actually, really, truly enjoying the retail environment without moping around, pretending to shop, and checking their smartphones while sitting on the nearest bench, you'd probably say no such thing.
But it exists, sort of.
A property near the corner of Canoga Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard in Canoga Park has a fully nude strip club, a bikini bar with alcohol, and a marijuana dispensary. The bikini bar features UFC mixed martial arts matches on its televisions. And there's even a XXX video and adult toy store on-site and a liquor store next door. Toldja:
The property has lived with the nudity and alcohol buffet for more than 13 years. But today at least one of the businesses, the Xposed strip club, is against the ropes, the target of an alleged LAPD crackdown and a move by city zoning administrators that could limit operations.
A zoning administrator's decision on what to do about the fully nude venue is due by Friday.
For now, the worst-case scenario for the club, Valley zoning official Alam Choudhury tells the Weekly, is that new operating conditions must be met:
People are given a chance to get their act together and get rid of nuisance issues. They're given some time to do that and comply. If that fails, their licenses are taken away.
The club's attorney says the crackdown is part of a vendetta by LAPD investigators who tried to shut down owner Brad Barnes for alleged distribution of marijuana at the adjacent dispensary.
Police were unsuccessful; the case was dismissed, Barnes' longtime attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, tells us.
The secret to the clubs' success has been the ingenious proximity of a bikini bar with alcohol to a fully nude strip club that does not serve alcohol. Technically, they are separate businesses called Wet Spot (the bar) and Xposed (the strip club).
But ownership bills the two this way: “The only spot in L.A. with full nude and full bar.”
You can park once, get your drink on, and then see fully nude women just by walking next door, something you can't really do almost anywhere else in California. State law forbids fully nude establishments from serving a drop of alcohol.
Wet Spot and Exposed are owned by former adult performer Barnes, who was a vocal opponent 10 years ago of the city's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to ban lap dances at bikini bars.
And since then, the pot shop has opened on the property — so now you can get weed too.
Cops now believe the combination has become just too much for some patrons to handle. Police have received complaints of prostitution, assaults, drunks in public — and of course, public urination.
But there are few residential neighbors to complain: The clubs are near a car wash, a Costco and a Salvation Army. And crime stats for the area police station, the LAPD's Topanga Division, show a 14 percent decrease in violent crime since 2011.
But officers insist the strip-club-alcohol-cannabis vortex is a real problem. An LAPD vice official told us:
They came to our attention during the course of routine investigation. Our unit is not the only one involved that has dealings with the whole property. We'll just let it play out with the zoning commissioner. But all the businesses on the property should be considered as a whole.
Lawyer Diamond, who helped overturn City Hall's lap dance ban, contends that police “didn't receive any complaints from neighbors.”
He says the clubs are in an “industrial area” anyway.
The root of the city's ire, Diamond alleges, is an unsuccessful attempt by the LAPD to nab owner Barnes for pot distribution for his unspecified role in the pot shop next door. The dispensary is one of approximately 135 in the city that were open before the City Council enacted a moratorium — and so will be allowed to stay open under new, voter-approved restrictions on weed retailers.
Diamond tells the Weekly that cops got a search warrant based on a confidential informant who said cannabis was being sold without proper ID checks. The warrant then allowed cops to search the whole property, including Wet Spot and Xposed, Diamond said.
But a judge threw the case out, based partly on an allegedly flawed warrant, and returned to Barnes his seized cash — $500,000, the lawyer said.
LAPD is always hostile to adult gentlemens' clubs. The reason they brought this proceeding was to retaliate against Brad Barnes, who prevailed in a criminal matter. I got the case dismissed.
The attorney alleges the same cops who tried to get Barnes on drug charges are now trying to shut down the clubs.
A shooting last month outside Xposed, following a reported dispute inside the club, hasn't helped its case. The September 6 attack left a man in critical condition, leading area City Councilman Bob Blumenfield to note that the venue would be put under city officials' microscope.
Diamond says situations like that are tough for club owners, though:
The LAPD and the city judge your venue based, in part, on 911 calls. This encourages some spots to avoid calling for help so they don't lose their licenses and come under this kind of scrutiny.