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Anaheim dinner theater to drop racy late-night fare

After complaints and a city crackdown, the venue will return to offering only its Battle of the Dance show. It had advertised a 'topless DJ,' featured go-go dancers and hosted an adult film performer.

May 02, 2012|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
  • The Battle of the Dance show in Anaheim is described as a “West Side Story” of sorts featuring a climactic battle between Spanish and Celtic dancers.
The Battle of the Dance show in Anaheim is described as a “West Side… (Arkasha Stevenson / Los…)

The owners of the Battle of the Dance dinner show had hoped to catch the wave of tourists from nearby Disneyland with family-friendly entertainment boasting European dancers and a gourmet meal of smoked salmon salad, filet mignon and a "decadent" dessert.

But when the paying customers failed to materialize in the numbers foreseen, they cut the number of dinner shows, amped up the volume and turned to a different crowd.

There was a "topless DJ," go-go dancers and an appearance by an adult film performer to entertain late-night partygoers in Anaheim's manicured resort district.

"DJ Starlett in sexy lingerie blasting all her moves," read a flier for the April 12 opening of OC Amnessia — an after-hours name for the dinner theater. It said there would be bottle service, a $1,000 go-go contest and "a new vibe."

The city was not impressed. Nor were some neighbors of the Harbor Boulevard venue, who said that for months they have been enduring late-night noise.

When operators moved to diversify even further — concerts, school proms, even church services — the city clamped down by barring all late-night events. The owners say they'll now return to the G-rated fare at the 950-seat theater.

Andres Gelabert said he and his investors will do their best to make a profit solely with the dinner shows — even though it's tough in a market where families are spending less money on vacations.

"People like it, but it's not enough," said Gelabert, founder of the Medieval Times dinner theaters.

Gelabert said he imported the Battle of the Dance show from his native Spain and calls it a "West Side Story" of sorts featuring a climactic battle between Spanish and Celtic dancers.

After a $10-million renovation, the theater opened in early 2011 within walking distance of Disneyland, nestled in a neighborhood of tidy motels and restaurants.

But behind the bustle of Harbor Boulevard, there are homes and apartments.

Jan Rasmussen and her husband moved to the area in the 1980s because it was close to the freeways, as well as Disneyland. She calls her neighborhood an oasis in the midst of the resort district, and over the years she's learned to live with distractions such as the theme park's nightly fireworks show.

"They're brief, predictable, then they're gone," she said. "And they're pretty."

So when she heard that Battle of the Dance was going to take over the former Toys R Us store by her home, she was excited. That changed, however, when she was awakened by the sounds of bottles shattering and car engines revving late at night. Sometimes, she said, the music was so loud it made her windows vibrate.

"It was like an earthquake in my house," she said.

She and a neighbor started shooting video of the disturbances (one features a mariachi band practicing in the parking lot) and jotting down notes for the city's Planning Commission.

Then she saw the flier advertising the "topless" DJ.

"I had decided that they had taken it to the worst direction possible," she said.

Gelabert acknowledges that the DJ was a mistake. "That was out of line," he said, adding that the performer was never actually topless.

"We're not about adult entertainment, we're about family entertainment," he said.

Since the theater opened last year, Anaheim police have responded to 40 calls for service, some of them involving narcotics possession, a stolen vehicle and shots fired.

"It's definitely a repeat response location," said Sgt. Bob Dunn.

Still the city said it is willing to give Battle of the Dance another chance — excluding the raucous events. Next Monday, the Planning Commission will hold another hearing regarding plans for the attraction.

"This is an opportunity for a business to come back before the Planning Commission to continue with their business in a positive way," said Ruth Ruiz, the city's spokeswoman.

Gelabert said that at the time, including the extra events made sense.

"It's a pity to have a beautiful property like this empty," he said.

He hopes he can keep the business open, adding that he won't give up.

"We are in a very tough time," he said. "Can we survive with just the Battle of the Dance? It will be tough, but we will try."

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