Liquor licence 'will lift price for strip club'

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2014
Jacqui Le Prou and James Samson
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CLUB OWNERS: Jacqui Le Prou and James Samson

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The couple behind Wellington strip club Calendar Girls have been restricted from any involvement with the club as it seeks to get its liquor licence back.

Jacqui Le Prou set up the club in Dixon St in 2012 but was forced into the court system after fellow strip club owners Michael and John Chow, as well as the police, opposed her application for a licence.

They objected to the involvement of Le Prou's husband James Samson, a convicted drug dealer. A licence was later granted on condition Samson was barred from the venue.

Police, however, took the unusual step of appealing to the High Court against the granting of the licence. The court stripped Calendar Girls of its ability to sell alcohol.

The club was placed into receivership, but remains open, selling only low-alcohol beer.

At an Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority hearing on Monday, receiver Murray Allott said his main aim was to secure a licence and return the club to profit in preparation for sale.

Police had initially opposed the application because of concerns Samson and Le Prou could become involved in the club again.

A company, BBT, which is 50 per cent owned by Samson and business owner Stacey Giles, provided $1 million to refurbish Calendar Girls Wellington and had hired Allott as receiver. It was first in line to receive its money after any sale.

But Allott said he had never met Samson and dealt only with Giles, who just wanted the club running again so it could be sold.

A clause barring Samson, Le Prou and Giles from having anything to do with the management of the club had been inserted into the application and had satisfied police.

If the club was sold without a licence, it would fetch between $100,000 and $250,000, but if it was granted a licence and returned to profitability it could probably be sold for about $2m.

The club had been returning up to $80,000 a month in profit before its licence was suspended. Because it had been purposely built at the site, it could not simply locate to a different venue, Allott said.

"It's not a business you can move next door and start with a pole and a bit of music or whatever."

While the business had not been advertised for sale, one party has already expressed interest.

When contacted by The Dominion Post, Le Prou denied that she was barred from involvement with the club, but refused to elaborate.

"I've got a busy enough day as it is, and I don't have time to bother with your reports."

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Wellington alcohol harm prevention officer Sergeant Terry Fraser said police had opposed the application because of Samson's involvement, but would still be keeping a close eye on the strip club if it were granted another licence.

Michael Chow declined to comment on the application, or on whether the Chow Group would be interested in buying the club.

- The Dominion Post

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