The Emmaus building at the center of the "swingers club" controversy is again up for grabs, and business owners appear more determined than ever to lure a new tenant.
Narinder Garg, owner of the 302 Main St. property, said his talks with an East Stroudsburg man who wanted to lease the property for a social club are dead and that he's already beginning to show the building to other prospective tenants.
"That's a done deal," Garg said of his previous talks with David Mayi Jr., who proposed the Vault Social Club for the location. "It's finished. They're not going to come."
Garg's decision to seek another tenant makes it unlikely that Mayi would be able to appeal last week's decision by the Zoning Hearing Board denying a permit for the club at that location.
Teri Madison, executive director of the Emmaus Main Street Program, said the Vault proposal was a "wake-up call" for the borough and business community that she says is now determined to fill the property, which has been vacant for more than a year.
"Had [the Vault] slipped under the wire, we would have had this business in town," said Madison, whose group opposed the club's approval. "We want to get together and really do some searching to find the right business."
Business owners' concerns weren't limited to the belief that the Vault would become a swingers hangout. Gene Clock, president of the Main Street Program's board of directors, said he would like to see a business that is open six days a week, rather than the two days proposed by the Vault.
Garg planned to show the three-story property to a prospective tenant Monday and said he welcomes discussions with the Main Street group. He said he had considered withdrawing the zoning appeal filed by Mayi, a move that would have effectively made last Thursday night's public hearing moot, but decided against it after consulting with an attorney.
Garg of King of Prussia, Montgomery County, had said he was unaware of the rumors swirling about a possible swingers club at his property and the fact the social club had been advertised in the online swinging community after he began lease talks with Mayi. He said he wanted nothing to do with a business where sex might be involved.
Mayi said during last week's hearing that he had a verbal agreement to lease the building. He said the verbal deal called for a one-year lease, at $4,000 per month, with an option for four more years.
Mayi acknowledged during three hours of grilling that swingers would be members of his club, but claimed it was not a swingers club. He wouldn't say after the hearing whether he'd appeal the decision or seek another site. He did not return multiple messages Friday and Monday.
Garg said he would be "tickled to death" if the downtown business community aided him in his search for a tenant, saying he would like to find something that would "fit in the neighborhood" and create "more harmony" in the borough.
The property was most recently the Palace of India, which occupied the site for about eight years beginning in 1999. The property had previously been home to Marcel's Old Country Inn.
Garg, who has owned the building since 1998, said he'd like to fill it with a new restaurant, but that he's open to other ideas.
Madison said she would like to see a restaurant there as well. "I would like to bring [Garg] up here and sit down with him and see where he's coming from," she said.
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