A police taskforce has moved to shut down one of Melbourne’s largest strip clubs after accusing the venue of facilitating prostitution and breaching liquor and planning guidelines.
The Men’s Gallery in the CBD has been accused by officers from the sex industry co-ordination unit of operating an unlicensed brothel by allowing exotic dancers to simulate masturbation in front of patrons, who often make cash payments.
The Men’s Gallery on Lonsdale Street in the CBD.Credit:Sebastian Costanzo
The legal case brought by Victoria Police will be heard in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday and, if successful, could have broader implications for the state’s adult entertainment industry.
Men’s Gallery has been owned for almost 30 years by Peter Iwaniuk, who declined to comment when contacted by The Age.
The Lonsdale Street venue was raided by officers from the state liquor unit on May 25, when CCTV footage and computer hard-drives were removed, while a separate warrant was executed at Centrefold Lounge on King Street, which is also owned by Mr Iwaniuk.
At the time, police issued Mr Iwaniuk with 20 penalty notices for allegedly supplying liquor in breach of its licence conditions.
Club owner Peter Iwaniuk.Credit:James Davies
The investigation also involved the sex industry co-ordination unit, which issued Mr Iwanuik with legal documents on August 5.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed it had lodged an application for an adult entertainment venue in Melbourne’s CBD to be declared a “proscribed brothel”.
“This follows an extensive investigation by the sex industry co-ordination unit and state liquor unit. The matter will be heard before Melbourne Magistrates Court,” the spokesman said.
Mr Iwanuik has engaged a formidable legal team for the hearing on Monday, including prominent human rights lawyer Greg Barns, SC, who also declined to comment.
If deemed a “proscribed brothel”, a magistrate could ban Men’s Gallery from serving alcohol.
MP Fiona Patten, leader of the Reason Party, described the police case against Mr Iwanuik’s club as an “excursion into 1950s morality”.
“It certainly doesn't seem to be a good, or even correct use of the Sex Work Act,” Ms Patten told The Age.
Over the past decade, Mr Iwanuik has repeatedly frustrated attempts by prominent property developer Lorenz Grollo to gentrify the King Street precinct, which has long been known for its seedy strip clubs and late-night venues.
In 2018, he finally agreed to sell the Inflation nightclub to Mr Grollo and St Martins Properties, who co-own the nearby Rialto tower. But plans to build a second tower adjoining the Rialto have been thwarted by a long-term tenant of Inflation, Martha Tsamis.
Melbourne City Council has been supportive of the Grollo vision to rejuvenate the western end of the CBD.
“It’s fantastic to see major development proposals worth hundreds of millions of dollars put forward for consideration, especially when they seek to reactivate areas of our city,” lord mayor Sally Capp said.
“We want King Street to be a vibrant, safe and attractive part of the city. Economic activity, safety and amenity are a priority for me and the entire City of Melbourne team,” she said.
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