The owner of a controversial proposed cabaret in Wantagh has filed a defamation lawsuit against a local resident who has opposed the project, saying the resident accused him of having ties to organized crime.
William Stephen Dean, of Commack, who also owns Billy Dean’s Showtime Cafe in North Bellmore, said Friday that the resident, Kevin Milano, “crossed the line” by allegedly telling local officials Dean has links to “organized crime figures.”
“I would never want to silence Mr. Milano’s First Amendment right, but when you cross the line and you make accusations to the acting DA that I seem to have connections to organized crime figures, that’s defamatory and he needs to be held accountable for these outrageous accusations,” Dean said Friday in an interview.
Wantagh resident Milano could not immediately be reached for comment about the lawsuit, which was filed in State Supreme Court in Riverhead.
Officials with the Town of Hempstead declined comment.
The lawsuit seeks $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, plus interest.
It includes a copy of e-mails allegedly written by Milano last fall to public officials — including Kate Murray, then a Town of Hempstead supervisor, and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, who then was in the post as acting DA. One of the e-mails allegedly written by Milano and included in the court filing said Dean and his business partner “seem to have connections to organized crime figures.”
The lawsuit also says Milano distributed a “Petition to Stop the Strip Club” and posted fliers that said “this form of prostitution is being allowed in our neighborhood.” Another sign allegedly said “No whorehouse here.”
Dean, who bills his North Bellmore business as “Long Island’s No. 1 Strip Club,” has sought to open the Mile High Club cabaret at 3500 Sunrise Hwy. in Wantagh since 2011.
Milano has been a leading opponent of the proposed cabaret, arguing that it is inappropriate because, among other things, it is near schools and houses.
Dean said Friday the Wantagh cabaret would not involve any nudity, but offer “America’s Got Talent”-type acts, including magicians, knife-throwers, singers, dancers, comedians and acrobatic acts.
He said he is willing to sign a covenant with the town that the cabaret would have no “topless, bottomless and nude entertainment.”
In 2009, he said, he paid $950,000 for the building. Since then, he said he has spent $1.4 million to renovate it and pay taxes and other expenses, including legal fees.
The Town of Hempstead, which includes Wantagh, initially approved his application but then rescinded it. The town’s decision was upheld by the New York State Appellate Division in February 2014.
Attorneys for Dean then filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging the town had violated his civil rights because local laws permit the cabaret.
Town officials have said the cabaret cannot be approved because it is near a residential neighborhood.
Local laws allow adult uses, such as topless bars and adult bookstores, in industrial and light manufacturing zones, town officials said. Other restrictions prohibit such businesses from being within 500 feet of a residential zone, houses of worship, schools and parks.
The federal lawsuit is pending. A hearing on the project is scheduled Aug. 30 before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.