A proposal for a “speakeasy” and burlesque club under a Chinese Restaurant off Shelton’s Bridgeport Avenue are on hold for now.
Plans for the business — to be called “Hush” — ignited a firestorm of speculation and concern after coming to light last month.
Many residents worried that the club, which would be situated on a 1.28-acre property bordering a condo development, would be an adult entertainment venue, a strip club in all but name.
In an interview with the Valley Indy, the business’ owner, Randi Lee England, adamantly denied that would be the case.
She said the club would have a “speakeasy theme,” reflecting a nostalgic trend in the bar business harkening back to the days of Prohibition.
A state liquor commission spokesperson pointed out Monday that the fact the business applied for a liquor permit from the state shows nudity isn’t on the table.
The Planning & Zoning Commission was to discuss the plans at a meeting Nov. 14.
But that will no longer happen because the business’ description as a “speakeasy” is prohibited, according to Richard Schultz, the city’s zoning officer.
Schultz sent a letter Nov. 7 to England notifying her that her application for a “certificate of zoning compliance” for the business at 303 Old Bridgeport Ave., under Hunan Pan restaurant, had been rejected.
“Based on (a) review and consultation with the Assistant Corporation Counsel, I have made a determination that your Statement of Use indicates that a Speakeasy activity is proposed at this location which is a prohibited use,” Schultz wrote.
The zoning official alerted local media about his decision on Election Day (Nov. 7).
The Valley Indy emailed England Thursday (Nov. 9) seeking comment.
Schultz said he and Shelton Assistant Corporation Counsel Ramon Sous reached their decision after looking up the word “speakeasy.”
“I used the Webster (dictionary) definition, which is ‘the assembly of individuals in an illegal setting,’” Schultz said.
The rejection letter did not address whether the “burlesque” aspect of the business would constitute “adult entertainment,” which would be prohibited at the property by the city’s zoning regulations.
England’s application for a certificate of zoning compliance doesn’t mention burlesque shows specifically among the types of entertainment to be offered at the club: “local DJs, comedians, musicians, plays/shows, jukebox, piano players.”
Schultz said he met Thursday (Nov. 9) with a lawyer representing England, who could file a revised application for the business.
The lawyer didn’t get into specifics about England’s plans, Schultz said, but reviewed her original application.
“It’s a work in progress,” Schultz said. “He did not go into detail.”
The earliest the Planning & Zoning Commission could discuss a revised application would be its Dec. 12 meeting, Schultz said.
The business obtained a liquor permit in April that was valid as of Thursday.
Schultz said the Shelton land use office reached out to state officials for more details about the license.
“This is an educational curve for me so I was calling them to see what definitions they have and what they have allowed and haven’t allowed,” Schultz said.
The liquor license lists permitted activities at the club as “Acoustics (not amplified), Comedians, Disc Jockeys, Karaoke, Live Bands, Plays/Shows.”
Lora Rae Anderson, a spokesperson for the Department of Consumer Protection, said the state doesn’t have regulations specific to speakeasies or burlesque clubs.
People applying for liquor permits are required to disclose if they plan on offering live entertainment — but that can’t include stripping, she said.
Anderson said in an email that state officials would look into any more information on the business from Shelton officials or complaints from the public.
“Recently, town zoning officials have requested information regarding the activities to be conducted on the premises,” she said. “We will continue to take appropriate action based on information and updates provided by local officials. The premises has not yet opened for business. In the case consumers have complaints about an open establishment with a liquor permit in the state, they may contact our liquor control division at (860) 713-6210, or email@example.com,”