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By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
"I'll wear a flower in my hair or something," Karen Raley says chirpily, "because you'll never recognize me from my mug shot!"
She sits in a back booth at Roasters' n Toasters in Aventura. It's her favorite diner, a low-key joint where the bagels are cheap. She doesn't seem to mind that it once employed one of the men who murdered her husband.
She's a tiny woman with a childlike exuberance. Big eyes peek out from under blond bangs. She wears a pantsuit and those Skechers that are supposed to tone your figure as you walk. She officiously unfolds a manila envelope full of pictures and news clippings about Bob, her late husband, and the nearly 40-year-old strip club she officially took over upon his death.
Take One Cocktail Lounge is a raucous joint. Located at 333 NE 79th Street in Little River, the gritty light-industrial neighborhood just north of Little Haiti, it's the kind of place where dancers brawl onstage and spaghetti Western shootouts go down in the parking lot. But in Karen's portrayal, Take One is Miami's version of Cheers. "There is a mystique about the place that no one can deny," reads one of the documents she brings to breakfast, a paragraph-long ode she wrote to the club. "Maybe it is Bob himself."
By all rights, Karen shouldn't have to be here defending the club where her husband was killed, an establishment she had little interest in before his death and has been inside five or six times since. After Bob was murdered in 2004, Karen's family — staid Midwesterners — urged her to sell the place and be rid of it.
But Bob's longtime manager, James Wright, had another idea. When James had showed up at Bob's club looking for a job in the late '90s, he was a depressed, square-jawed hulk — a former West Virginia University linebacker who had been chased from a spot with the Pittsburgh Steelers by a knee injury. Bob had come to regard him as a surrogate son, and James became the night-to-night face of Take One.
After Bob's death, James convinced Karen to let him keep the club alive. "He told me he could keep it going and then buy the club himself," says Karen as her rye toast and egg whites get cold. "I did the trusting. I said: 'Pretend this is your place.' "
As far as mistakes go, it was a doozy. In August, both James and Karen were charged with concealing from the IRS more than $7 million in proceeds. She was roused from bed by Miami Police officers at 5:30 a.m. and dragged to jail, quite an experience for a 66-year-old Aventura resident without a speeding ticket on her record. But she regards it with the nearly superhuman optimism that could be her trademark. "Oh lordy, it was the worst and the best experience in my life," she says wryly. "I saw a part of the world I'd never been exposed to. I don't think I would trade in that experience if I could."
After about seven coffee refills, she's done with her breakfast and headed to her silver BMW in the parking lot. But then she swivels, grabs an arm, and makes a request: Go easy on Bob's old club. "Don't make it out like it's some mafia-connected, warlord place off of The Sopranos," she pleads. "We get New Times in my condo, and that's my nightmare."
When a bouncer at Take One Cocktail Lounge denied Carlos Ceartis Jenkins and two friends entry into the club's tiny VIP lounge near 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning in January 2010, he reacted how any hot-blooded 21-year-old multiple-felon would: by punching the guy in the face.
Other bouncers joined the fracas, which rolled out of the club and into the parking lot. Jenkins produced a Glock .45 from his waistband and pointed toward the face of a guard — identified only as "Bouchard" in a police report. Bouchard scrambled behind a parked car. That's when a second guard — "Walker" — unloaded his own handgun into Jenkins, hitting him with three bullets.
As Jenkins lay bleeding on the pavement, Walker calmly placed both pistols on the tires of vehicles in the parking lot and waited for the police. Jenkins would survive what was deemed a justifiable shooting, and he is awaiting trial on aggravated assault charges. The next night, the strip club was again open for business.
Such sudden explosions of violence are the specialty of Take One. It's a block removed from the winding, murky Little River and winner, in 2008, of this publication's perhaps recklessly bequeathed Best Strip Club award. Public records prove that its notorious reputation is well-earned. Since 2005, according to numbers compiled by the Miami Police Department, there have been at least 13 reported shootings, including two homicides, on the club's grounds. The same five years have also seen 31 assaults and 105 disputes called in to cops.
The police reports read like scenes from Patrick Swayze's Road House but with more Austrian firepower. There was the episode of two strippers brawling onstage, with one of them smashing a beer bottle on the head of another. That same year, a drunk customer destroyed a $6,000 video poker machine when he discovered that his wallet had been stolen. In 2007, an irate dancer named Marie attempted to smash her Ford Explorer through the club's walls.
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How do you open an envelope "officiously"?I guess that you have to take over a club "officially" before you can open the envelope "officiously"
How does one open an envelope officiously?When you officially take over a club, you open an envelope officiously!
Thanks for putting Take One back on the map. Great story and editorial, I love Take One, the place is the best, love the girls and the atmosphere. I will drink to Take Love in a bit love the place.
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"....cops discovered strippers pleasuring themselves with toys and performing oral sex onstage...."
I love the Miami New Times!
Miami New Times is the hoodrat of Miami newspapers... you guys should cover Centro Español next...
nonetheless... entertaining I must say