Underground smokehouses open amid crackdown on smoking, strip clubs in TREMONT, Ohio City and other neighborhoods

Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Tue, 07/12/2011 - 04:26.
Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on February 18, 2009 - 11:00pm.

Ohio's crackdown on strip joints and barroom smoking has spawned as many

 

> as two dozen underground nightclubs that operate in houses across

 

> Cleveland.

 

> Known as smokehouses, the after-hours hangouts offer what legal clubs

 

> and bars cannot - places for patrons to smoke while they drink, watch

 

> strippers after midnight and have sex with prostitutes, according to

 

> city vice detectives.

 

>

 

> So far, the smokehouse owners have been cagey enough to avoid being

 

> busted.

 

>

 

> "These guys aren't stupid," said attorney Skip Lazzaro, who represents

 

> legal nightclubs in court. "They know that if they want to stay open,

 

> they have to fly below the radar, avoid complaints and the attention of

 

> neighbors."

 

>

 

> To stir up business and avoid detection, the smokehouse proprietors

 

> rotate the dancers from house to house and open on alternating nights so

 

> they don't compete with each other, Lazzaro said.

 

>

 

> Lazzaro and vice cops say they started hearing about smokehouses in

 

> Tremont, Ohio City and other residential neighborhoods last year after

 

> the state began enforcing a ban on smoking in public places and

 

> legislators outlawed nude entertainment after midnight.

 

>

 

> Detective Tom Shoulders, a 2nd District vice sergeant, compares the

 

> smokehouses of 2008 to the gin houses of Prohibition in the Roaring

 

> '20s.

 

>

 

> "You put too many restrictions on people, they're going to find

 

> someplace else to go for their entertainment," he said.

 

>

 

> Informants tell police that smokehouse patrons, primarily white suburban

 

> men, bring their own liquor, cigarettes and cigars.

 

>

 

> Doormen collect up to $25, purportedly for a buffet, and may require a

 

> reference for entry. Some clubs also provide jars filled with condoms.

 

>

 

> "They have succeeded in creating this underground, sleazy, cash- only

 

> business that cannot be regulated, taxed or secured by police," Lazzaro

 

> said.

 

>

 

> Shoulders and his twin brother, Terry, head of the 3rd District's vice

 

> unit, say they have yet to gather enough evidence to raid the clubs.

 

> That's because the neighbors aren't complaining, and undercover officers

 

> have been unable to get inside one.

 

>

 

> They have asked landlords to monitor activities in their rental homes

 

> and urged residents to keep their eyes open for any unusual activity.

 

>

 

> Detective Joe Bovenzi, a member of Tom Shoulders' 2nd District team, has

 

> helped close illegal bottle, drug and sex clubs during his 10 years as a

 

> vice cop. He recalled a case about two years ago when he helped to bust

 

> a home in Tremont where the owner had erected a brass stripper pole in

 

> the living room.

 

>

 

> Bovenzi predicted the smokehouses would eventually meet the same fate.

 

>

 

> "Someone will be treated wrongly and drop a dime," he said. "Or there

 

> will be fights or shootings, and we'll move in."

> Sunday, February 03, 2008
>
> James F. McCarty
>
> Plain Dealer Reporter

Reprinted from Cleveland.com Compliments of the Plain Dealer on
> 02-03-08

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