When the flappers and wise guys of the Roaring ’20s used the term “speakeasy” to refer to an unlicensed, underground drinking establishment, they did it for a reason.
The idea was to keep the place’s mere existence on the down-low.
But in the age of social media, that definition may be changing by the moment. Take the case of a certain Mayfair thrift store.
Early this month, neighbors of the business at 3504 Cottman Ave. began noticing advertisements posted on Facebook in which proprietors of the so-called Above & Beyond Urban Club sought “exotic dancers & strippers” in addition to bartenders and “waitress girls” to work at the venue.
“Looking to make money or have a home base wvwry [sic] friday night also be part of the tour traveling team,” one post asked. “If your [sic] interested get back with me asap Taking Auditions Now”
The same post promoted a Feb. 17 “No Valentine All Star Weekend” party and featured illustrations of women in g-strings, lap dancing, pouring drinks and counting cash.
Community leaders like Donny Smith, president of the Mayfair Civic Association, explored the ad further on Facebook and found an entire Above & Beyond Club page with external photos of the would-be thrift store and internal images of a busy nightclub. The photos showed dozens of people gathered around a bar and bandstand.
Furthermore, a separate event page provided more details about the Feb. 17 party, including cover charges and hours. The party was to start at 7 p.m. and continue into an “after hour” session from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. the following morning.
Nobody had approached the civic association with information about zoning or liquor license applications for 3504 Cottman. The association last met on Jan. 23. The nightclub posts began appearing on Facebook at least as early as Jan. 29 and had been reposted by neighbors on pages like Mayfair Matters.
“This all came up after our last civic meeting,” Smith said. “But there’s been rumblings on Facebook from that point forward.”
Those rumblings have also reached the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection.
“We are well aware of 3504 Cottman. They don’t have the zoning for (a nightclub), the food license, the building permits, the certificate of occupancy, the special assembly license, the amusement license. They don’t have any of the stuff they need,” said L&I spokeswoman Karen Guss. “And a nightclub occupancy is considered the most hazardous because of the dangers that increase when you have alcohol, low lighting and loud music. So we take this seriously.”
City inspectors visited the property but were unable to access it at the time. A Northeast Times reporter also visited the site on a recent Saturday afternoon and found the business closed. The reporter called one number associated with the Facebook posts, but it was no longer in use. The reporter called a second number associated with the thrift shop in online listings. A man answered the call, identified himself as the proprietor, then hung up when the reporter asked questions about the Feb. 17 party.
L&I is still trying to speak with the proprietor, too.
“We’re trying to get in touch with the owners now and tell them if they’re smart, they won’t open (on Feb. 17) because we are going to shut them down if they try,” Guss said.
A merchant from a nearby store, who asked not to be identified by name, said that the storefront has been a thrift shop-type business for a few years and a coffee shop before that. Periodically, the operator will place merchandise for sale on the sidewalk outside, such as second-hand baby strollers or bicycles.
The external appearance of the shop has changed little if at all in recent weeks. The ball caps and other athletic-style apparel hang in the front window, as do leaflets promoting “new arrivals.” But several feet behind the front window, there appears to be an internal wall with a door leading to an additional room.
City tax records show that a business entity owns the property, which last sold for $395,000 last February. The business is registered to the address of a townhouse in King of Prussia. There is no telephone listing for the business in available online records. ••