The woman behind plans to open a Shelton speakeasy/burlesque club asked residents to reserve judgment after rumors about the business prompted widespread concerns.
“It’s not going to be a strip club. It’s not going to be a gentlemen’s club,” Randi Lee England said. “It’s a burlesque club.”
England plans to open the business, called “Hush,” on the first floor of 303 Bridgeport Ave., under Hunan Pan Chinese restaurant.
The 1.28-acre property borders the Sunwood condominium development.
A Facebook page that has since been deleted describing the business as a “gentleman’s club” caused concerns a strip club was going to open in the neighborhood.
In a phone interview, England denied that’s the case.
A former tanning salon manager, England said she was inspired to open the business after seeing movies like “Burlesque” and “Moulin Rouge.”
“It’s not about being naked. It’s retro. It’s vintage. It’s a tease,” she said.
Isn’t striptease still stripping, though?
England says no.
“It’s all about the theatrics,” she said. “It’s not taking your clothes off.”
Whether city officials agree remains to be seen.
The city’s zoning regs prohibit any “adult oriented business” at the property as it is currently zoned.
Asked if a “burlesque club” would meet the definition of an “adult oriented business,” Rick Schultz, the city’s zoning administrator, said he couldn’t say because England hasn’t submitted an application for him to review yet.
If she does, Schultz said he’ll reach out to a lawyer to get a legal opinion on the matter.
England obtained a liquor license for the location, but still needs a “certificate of zoning compliance” to open the club, Schultz said.
That won’t happen unless her plans are approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, which will discuss the issue at its Nov. 14 meeting.
England said she wants to combine the concept of a burlesque club with a speakeasy, a nostalgic trend in the bar business harkening back to the days of Prohibition.
England said burlesque performances would be just one aspect of the entertainment at the club, which would also include a piano player and other musical acts.
Shelton residents focused intense speculation on the business after learning of England’s plans, particularly through a Facebook page that had been set up for “Hush.”
At first, the page described the business as a “gentlemen’s club,” then changed the description to “speakeasy” after several people asked questions. A message eventually appeared on the page trying to allay fears.
“There has been a lot of chatter about what may or may not be in our plans for the future of this business,” the message said. “To be clear and completely transparent I want to state that this in no way shape or form is a strip club / adult entertainment establishment nor are there any plans or intentions to become such in the future.”
But residents’ concerns escalated after Patrick Jeanetti, a Democratic candidate for Third Ward Alderman, posted screenshots of private messages that appeared to be sent by the “Hush” Facebook page saying patrons of the business would be able to get lap dances.
England said the messages were sent by a “rogue ex-partner” with whom she had a falling out.
“It’s my business at the end of the day and I make the decisions and we did not agree on everything,” England said. “Unfortunately I didn’t realize she still had access to my Facebook.”
She said she took down the Facebook page because people “were posting things like my address and personal things. I took away their ability to tarnish my business any further. We haven’t even opened yet.”
Asked whether the outcry would cause her to change her plans for the business, she said no.
“It doesn’t change my plans going forward but is definitely discouraging,” England said. “I haven’t even been able to be given the opportunity to open or show what the business is going to be or what I’m trying to do before people are trying to tear me down.”