Select Board Chairman urges prospective Castaway buyers to craft written policy on sexual harassment

  • Prospective buyer Nicholas Spagnola speaks at Wednesday’s public hearing on a transfer of a liquor license and the issuing of an entertainment license to him and his business partner for the Castaway Lounge. Looking on is Demetrious “Jimmy the Greek” Konstantopoulos, center, the owner of the strip club, along with his longtime attorney, Edward J. Ryan Jr., and his wife, Barbara. FOR THE GAZETTE/Joshua Solomon

  • Whately Selectboard Chairman Jonathan Edwards at Wednesday’s public hearing on a transfer of a liquor license and the issuing of an entertainment license to the prospective buyer’s of the Castaway Lounge. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • Attorney Tom Lesser, representing the prospective buyers, at Wednesday’s public hearing on a transfer of a liquor license and the issuing of an entertainment license to the Castaway Lounge. To his left, abutters Joe and Sheila Zewinski, and their son, who have voiced opposition to the plans. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

For the Gazette
Published: 6/15/2018 11:56:20 PM

WHATELY — Suggesting there may be prostitution or related illicit activities currently going on at, or at least related to, the Castaway Lounge, Select Board Chairman Jonathan Edwards strongly encouraged the prospective buyers of the strip club to write up a thorough policy to state what they will do to prevent this.

Edwards, who is running for the First Franklin state representative seat, shared his concerns during a public hearing on issuing an entertainment license to the Boston duo trying to buy the Christian Lane establishment from Demetrious “Jimmy the Greek” Konstantopoulos.

The public hearing, which had already been continued from its initial meeting last month, will be continued once again to June 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Whately Elementary School. It is expected that a decision will be made on transferring a liquor license and issuing an entertainment license to the hopeful owners of the Castaway.

Regarding the fate of the strip club, Edwards positioned the conversation around sexual harassment and what he described as the “rumor mill.” By the time Edwards offered his sentiments during the entertainment license hearing, the liquor license hearing had already been continued to the end of the month because of his push to have neighbors to the club feel more satisfied with possible concessions from the owners.

“I’ll fall on my sword and say I want to be inclusive,” Edwards said. “I just want to be inclusive.”

His desire for inclusivity came after extensive public conversation about two of the abutters’ complaints regarding their worries of an increase in traffic and noise, which they expressed could cause enough of a public health concern that might merit not extending the liquor license.

Instead, Edwards wants the abutters and the prospective buyers to meet off-camera, in a backroom meeting, likely hosted by Town Administrator Brian Domina, so they can possibly more easily hash out disagreements. That meeting will not be public and Select Board members are not expected to be in attendance.

By the time the entertainment license came up, the sentiment in the room at the Whately Town Offices Wednesday had simmered since a decision was clearly not going to be made until later in the month.

That was until Edwards reignited the conversation, following a lengthy list of questions by Select Board member Joyce Palmer-Fortune about what the club plans.

“I have a couple questions and you’ll forgive me. I’ll assume we’re all adults here,” Edwards began. “I am wondering about treatment of employees. I’m wondering about how we can make sure with a written plan that certain illegal activities do not take place at, or the establishment is a catalyst for certain activities. Some may say that will never happen, but adult entertainment establishments probably have a higher propensity for certain activities than, let’s say, the Whately Inn.”

He continued: “Again, let’s all be adults here and understand that I, as a board member, want a written policy on how the new ownership will work to make sure there is no drug trafficking taking place in the establishment. I, as a board member, want a written policy to make sure there isn’t extra cash made by certain individuals at other places off premises. I want to make sure the dancers, the entertainers, are given absolute and total respect as employees and there will be no harassment of those employees by either other employees or customers.”

Edwards carried on for several minutes, uninterrupted, saying if the prospective buyers want the town to approve the license transfer, they need to show a satisfactory written policy on preventing sexual harassment “in the workplace, by people, who by the way, are dancing nude.”

The prospective buyers, Julius Sokol and Nicholas Spagnola, were represented at the meeting by local attorney Tom Lesser, who first took objection to Edwards assuming criminal activity will be higher at a strip club than at a restaurant. He then took to the state representative candidate’s claims about illicit activities at or originating at the club.

“There will be a policy that employees, dancers, performers will not engage in prostitution — call it what it is — with customers, but there is nothing else that can be done,” Lesser said. “If you want something that is incredibly comprehensive, you’re not going to get it.”

Lesser agreed to provide some kind of written policy to appease Edwards’ strong suggestions.

“I’m not saying this because I’m looking for a reason to kill this thing, I’m saying this because we need to know what your plan is so we can follow along its logical path and to ensure public health and safety is being adhered to,” Edwards concluded.


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