Springfield Police: 150 customers attended illegal marijuana ‘vendor party’ at Mardi Gras strip club
Springfield, Mo.
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By Jim Kinney | jkinney@repub.com

SPRINGFIELD — The Friday night marijuana bust on the third floor of the Mardi Gras strip club at 393 Dwight Street was at an illegal underground cannabis vendor party that drew 150 customers and 30 to 40 sellers of the drug, Springfield Police said Saturday.

Police seized 200 pounds of marijuana, prompting Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno to call for disciplinary hearings that could result in the loss of liquor licenses at the establishment.

Undercover police allegedly bought marijuana at the event. During the process of enforcing the law, many vendors and customers left the premises abandoning their marijuana, police said.

Arrested were: Alissa Nowak, 24 of Bellingham, Massachusetts, and Hemant Shani, of the 1100 Block of Worcester St., Springfield.

Booking photos will be available following a court appearance Monday, Springfield police said.

Both were charged with two counts of distribution of a class D drug and with possession with intent distribute a class D Drug. Neither are licensed to sell marijuana by the state Cannabis Control Commission, police said.

Dan Kelly, attorney for Mardi Gras Entertainment, Inc. and its president Anthony L. Santaniello, said Saturday that it is inaccurate to say the bust was at the Mardi Gras.

“It’s a 50,000 square-foot building with multiple tenants,” he said. “You can’t even get from the Mardi Gras to this space.”

Kelly said the third floor is open warehouse space that was rented out, but he had few details on what the landlords thought was going on there.

But he said the third floor space is not part of any space included in the three liquor licensees: the Mardi Gras, the 350 Grill Steakhouse or Smokey Joe’s Cigar Bar.

Sarno, in a statement released Saturday, said he received early morning updates from Police Commissioner John Barbieri and Licensing Director Alesia Days.

Following that briefing, Sarno said he ordered public health, safety and entertainment license hearings on the Springfield Police Department drug raid at the Mardi Gras strip club.

“The Mardi Gras establishment will face all appropriate sanctions, all the way up to revocation of any and all licenses,” Sarno said.

The Mardi Gras bills itself as the largest strip club in the region and New England’s bachelor party headquarters.

Records on file at the Hampden Registry of Deeds show the property is owned by B.S.C. Realty, a company controlled by James Santaniello of Longmeadow.

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