The owners of the Middletown Square shopping center have pulled the plug on a proposed teen dance club, just days before town council was slated to vote on a permit for the business.
Town officials said they received an email from shopping center owners Pettinaro Management on Tuesday requesting that Antrics’ permit application be removed from council’s Aug. 5 agenda.
Pettinaro Management CEO Greg Pettinaro declined to comment about the email on Tuesday afternoon.
However, club co-owner Antonino Piraino said the landlord rescinded its four-month-old lease offer via email on July 23. That decision came less than a week after Middletown’s Public Safety Commission voted to recommend that council deny a conditional use permit that would have been needed before Antrics could open in the shopping center.
“I honestly don’t know what to think about the landlord’s decision,” Piraino said. “They loved the idea back in May, so I don’t know if someone threatened them, or talked them out of it or if they just have a tenant interested in the space that wouldn’t have any problem getting approved.”
Piraino said he and his partners have yet to decide their next move.
“We’re regrouping and trying to decide whether we should even try to open in Delaware at all or look at a completely different state,” the 18-year-old Appoquinimink High School graduate said. “Even if we had fought and won (a permit), it was clear the police were ganging up on us and would have tried to shut us down. Right now, we just feel like we’ve been let down by our own town.”
Piraino and fellow 18-year-old Eric Mears, a 2013 Middletown High School graduate, had been seeking to open Antrics in a 1,600-square-foot retail space next to Mid-County Bowling Lanes.
Because dance clubs are not allowed by right in Middletown’s commercial zoning areas, the duo and their silent partners were required to seek a conditional-use permit from town council.
In May, the town’s planning and zoning commission voted unanimously to recommend that town council approve the permit.
However, town council voted two weeks later to seek a second opinion from the Middletown Public Safety Commission, a seven-member body appointed by council to hear matters pertaining to the municipal police department.
Following two hearings, the public safety commission voted unanimously to recommend that town council deny the application, citing unresolved security concerns.
Chief among those concerns were questions about the club’s dependence on the availability of off-duty Middletown police officers and the owners’ ability to safeguard against violence and illegal drugs.
Page 2 of 2 - Although Piraino was not present for the public safety commission’s vote, he did post a 2,200-word rebuttal to their decision on the Middletown Transcript’s Facebook page on July 22.
The following day, Pettinaro Management’s director of retail leasing withdrew the club’s lease offer.
“We had hoped to make this deal with you but we now realize we didn’t have all the information we needed make that decision,” Victor Ambrosio wrote, according to a copy of the email that was provided to the Middletown Transcript on Tuesday. “Looking at all sides fairly, it is not in our best interest to allow this type of business [to] open at Middletown Square.”