Strip Club’s Departure Hits Nearby Brothels Hard

(March 8) More than four months after the Déjà Vu strip club in the unincorporated county area between Montclair and Chino closed, activity at nearby brothels has noticeably diminished, though those illicit businesses remain in operation.
In November, the party came to a close at the locale billed as “where the party never ends,” pursuant to the county planning commission’s vote last August to enforce a 2002 legal settlement between the club and the county over the club’s location and activities.
Established in the 1980s at the northwest corner of Mission Boulevard and Central Avenue within the city of Montclair’s sphere of influence as an adult venue with a liquor license and nude female dancing, the Déjà Vu early on became the focus of intensive efforts by both the county and Montclair to shutter it. After more than a decade of legal and procedural skirmishing, in 2002 the parties reached a legal settlement that provided the club’s owners the right to continue to operate as a strip club for another decade pursuant to some changes.
One of those changes was that the gaudy pink “Always Inn” motel adjacent to the strip club, which was owned and operated by the Déjà Vu’s management and charged its customers by the hour, was closed down and razed. The county also obtained the ownership’s agreement to paint over the pink and lime green exterior of the club itself with a much more sedate white. Eventually, the club would utilize a tinted light projector that at night constantly transformed the walls from red to violet to green to white.
Years ago, a constellation of satellite businesses – houses of ill repute – functioning under the cover of legitimate service providers such as massage parlors or health salons cropped up within easy walking distance of the Mission/Central intersection. An inadvertent result of the forced closure of the Always Inn was that those businesses flourished, with a significant portion of their clientele being drawn to the area by the Déjà Vu, the marquee for which, celebrated the club as one where a never ending party offered “Hundreds of Beautiful Girls & 3 ugly ones.”
The demise of the Déjà Vu has had an impact on the illicit enterprises surrounding it, or so it would appear, based on the cessation  of foot traffic from the strip club altogether. Fewer vehicles are observed in the remaining establishments’ parking lots than previously. Their lights remain lit well into the evening, on weeknights as well as on weekends. Only on Friday and Saturday nights does it appear that they are doing any business to speak of, but with nothing approaching the intensity they exhibited when the Déjà Vu was there to serve as a magnet.
Durand, Michigan-based Tollis, Inc., which specializes in the production of adult movies and live entertainment, owned and operated the Déjà Vu. Tollis last year resisted, through its attorney, Alicen Wong, the effectuation of the closure of the facility as a strip club, accepting only with reluctance a “compromise” that allowed it to continue to serve alcohol and remain open as a comedy club or sports bar.  After its closure in the fall, however, the venue has remained shuttered and there does not appear to be any movement to transitioning it into a stand-up/improvisational stage or a sports theme tavern.
While the brothels remain in place, there longevity at this point is questionable.
Both Montclair and county officials are looking forward to their eventual demise. There has been an ongoing effort to transform the area, which features  wrecking yards,  used car lots, marginal commercial uses, derelict motels, low class bordellos and light, medium and limited heavy industrial uses, into new residential units and commercial uses, and clean industrial operations functioning out of business parks and upgraded buildings.
From 1998 until 2011, Montclair spent $11 million to make public improvements within the Mission Boulevard Corridor Improvement Project area, which spans along Mission from the Los Angeles County line, a little over a mile-and-a-half west from the Déjà Vu, to Benson Avenue, a little less than a half mile east.
In a letter dated August 21, 2012 from Montclair’s community development director, Steve Lustro, to Chris Warrick, the planner at the county’s land use services division with oversight responsibility for that portion of the unincorporated county area in Montclair’s sphere of influence, Lustro stated that the sexually oriented operations in the area have hindered the type of development  officials are seeking to encourage. “The mere existence of the adult oriented business at the subject location has been an ongoing ‘red flag’ for at least two prospective developers interested in developing property within the city of Montclair’s corporate boundaries proximate to the property,” Lustro wrote.
The Sentinel has obtained an interoffice memo dated October 10, 2012 from San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Captain Steve Smith, who oversees the patrol division covering the county area bordering Montclair, to Warrick, pertaining to the Déjà Vu site and the proposal to convert it to a sports bar or comedy club.  That memo skirts the issue of illicit satellite uses around the 1.22 acre site, concentrating on the adult oriented business transitioning to a more traditional drinking establishment, with reference to the new facility’s liquor license and the conditions attached thereto, along with lighting, security, video monitoring, enforcement and remodeling,
With regard to the remodeling of the building, Smith wrote, “A remodel of the establishment should be made to ensure that the operation has converted from an adult only establishment with nude or topless entertainment. Remodeling the interior to better represent a sports bar environment would be highly recommended. The remodeling should include removal of private booths and brass poles. Having private booths invites behavior that leads to prostitution. The sheriff’s department lacks the manpower to conduct ‘sting’ operations for this type of activity. The planning and resources for a one day sting operation can involve several employees and is not a practical remedy for this problem. It is important to have a significant change to the interior so the environment and adult nature activities at the location do not revert back to undesirable conditions.”
With regard to video monitoring, Smith told Warrick, “The establishment must have working video surveillance. Video surveillance should be both inside and outside the location and should be digital and color quality.”
Warrick, for legal reasons, declined to discuss with the Sentinel whether the closure of the Déjà Vu was purposefully intended to damage the viability of the nearby sexually-oriented businesses.

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