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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

His Job Intact, Santiago May Support Opening Old Moda Space

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2007 at 12:15 PM

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The day after he avoided recall, Councilman Joe Santiago says opening a club in the former Moda space might work.
City Councilman Joe Santiago won his recall election yesterday, if indeed it’s possible to win a competition that only existed only because some number of people think you suck at your job. Nevertheless, he won, and he gets to keep on representing Ward 14, which stretches through parts of Tremont and Ohio City. With Santiago still in office, expect to start hearing a lot about one issue: the possible opening of a night club in the West 25th Street space that used to house Moda. (Click 'More' to read on) That club was shut down after residents complained about incessant noise and fighting in the streets on weekend nights. The owner’s coke-trafficking business didn’t help. Now the owner of the building, the Rialto company, is considering leasing the prime space – it's just up the street from the West Side Market -- to the owners of Heaven & Earth, a Flats East nightclub that’s being displaced by the Wolstein development. That club's owners apparently like the idea: they’ve already applied to transfer their liquor license to the new space. Santiago says no decisions have been made. But he sounds ready to support the idea. “It’s possibly a good fit,” he tells C-Notes. “If you rent a house out to tenants, and those tenants turn out to be the crappiest tenants possible, but you fix up the house to the best of your ability, you can’t assume that everyone you lease to and rent to is going to be the same.” In other words, why not give Heaven & Earth – a club he says has a solid reputation -- a chance? I actually went to Heaven & Earth a couple times a couple years back; they were the only club I knew that stayed open past 2 a.m. It was always empty and kind of boring, but that’s probably because it was after 2 a.m., and everyone else was smart enough to be at Panini’s or, I suppose, in bed. I also suppose that's a question that could come up: Does Heaven & Earth plan to stay open till 4 a.m. like they used to? I doubt that would fly. Santiago says community leaders in Ohio City are on board with the idea so far. Now, he says, it’s time to get community input, which he says he’ll gather at meetings over the next month. “Not screaming matches,” he says. But that’s likely what he’ll get. Santiago’s support of bars and clubs nearly helped cost him his job in the first place; the Web site calling for his ouster is littered with stories about nightclub owners with whom Santiago’s critics believe he's too tight. If he comes out in favor of opening Heaven & Earth, screaming is exactly what he’ll get. He has to know that. But even on the day after he saved his job, he’s not hiding his inclination to welcome a new club to the old Moda. “You have to treat every business with respect,” he says. -- Joe P. Tone

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