MANAGEMENT OR BUST

EX-DANCER DEBBY KOSOBUCKI THOUGHT SHE'D BEEN HIRED TO MANAGE A FIRST-CLASS TOPLESS CLUB. NOW SHE BELIEVES SHE WAS MERELY A FRONT TO CONCEAL THE INVOLVEMENT OF A CRIMINAL.

Other board members disagree. Theresa Keeley, a Scottsdale attorney, voted to deny the license based on both location and qualification. She was amazed that the license was approved. She found Kosobucki to be "pretty credible," although shaken.

Keeley says, "I think there was ample, ample evidence to suspect that there was maybe hidden ownership or the fact that he [Mondavano] was the managing agent. And, in my mind, I'm still convinced that the evidence they presented did establish that he is the managing agent."

A few days after the decision, Hays was still "in shock," he says. "I'd like to think that people were paid off, but I really don't believe that's the case," he says.

Janice Saulsberry, the former president of the Sunbeam Neighborhood Association, who protested the liquor license based on location, was also stunned. Citing ongoing efforts to rid East Van Buren of prostitution and drugs, she says a topless bar is the last thing the area needs. She calls the decision a "slap in the face" and says the liquor board is now "one of our most formidable enemies."

And Phoenix City Councilmember Cody Williams, who also opposes the license, is steaming.

"I may have believed that [the liquor board's] goal was to protect the community. That may not be the charge of the liquor board. The liquor board may be [there] to protect the ability of liquor to be sold in the state."

On March 15, Hays filed an appeal in Superior Court, marking perhaps the first time a city or town has sued the liquor board over a decision.

It will be months before anything happens, Hays says. Meanwhile, Howard Adams, director of the Department of Liquor Licensing and Control--which finds itself on the same side as Phoenix and against its own governing board--wrote to Brazee February 16, ordering her to cease her business association with Mondavano because state law prohibits a licensee from "knowingly associating" with a felon.

Yee wrote back the next day, claiming state liquor investigator Richard Gilchrist told him last November that Mondavano could work for 3613 Ltd., Expos‚ Cabaret's holding company, owned by Brazee, as long as he was not a manager, officer or director in the company and did not hold more than 10 percent stock in the company.

Brazee doesn't seem worried. She clearly is "knowingly associating" with Mondavano. Reached at Expos‚ last week, she confirms that Mondavano is an employee of 3613 Ltd.

She says, "He does the payroll [for Expos‚]. He does not hire, he does not fire people. He does not work in any capacity as a manager. He bartends and he takes me back and forth between my home and here."

Jim Brazee, Elizabeth's son, is listed as the general manager of Expos‚ Cabaret. He's relocated to Phoenix from St. Louis.

Debby Kosobucki's got a new job at the Arabian Room, a tiny neighborhood bar at 43rd Avenue and Bethany Home Road with a cast of craggy-faced regulars who come in as much for Kosobucki's banter as for the beer. Her boss, Judy Matias, likes Kosobucki so much, she says she'd trust her with the business, but for now the only job available is bartender.

The Arabian Room's the kind of place where you drink for free on your birthday. There's a Mr. Coffee behind the bar, and a big plastic jar of beef jerky. And there's a bartender like Kosobucki.

The bar's full on a Tuesday night. Kosobucki collects change for the jukebox--none of that "country shit"--and flirts a little with a new customer, Michael, whose hands are black from climbing aluminum ladders. Michael tells a joke about a smart blonde and Santa Claus.

Punch line: There's no such thing as either one!
Kosobucki throws back her own blond head and cackles, then stops suddenly, straight-faced. "D'ja make that one up yourself?"

More peals of laughter.
She leaves her woes at home. No one tips a depressed bartender. But Kosobucki can't get over the Expos‚ incident. She's lost 30 pounds, she's got an ulcer, she and her husband quarrel. Her reputation in the topless clubs is shot. Brazee and Mondavano "made me look like a liar in this town," she says, by letting her promise dancers they could work at a woman-owned, woman-run club.

On a recent day off, Kosobucki sits in her west Phoenix home at her pretty new glass kitchen table, nursing a can of Squirt and chain-smoking.

The part that irks her the most is that she was unable to convince the liquor board that she was used, that Brazee lied at the original hearing when she said Kosobucki would be the manager of Expos‚ Cabaret.

"I got all the transcripts, I've got the tapes. . . . What more do I have to prove here?"

She's content at the Arabian Room, but if she got an offer tomorrow to manage an upscale topless club?

"I would do it," she says quickly, then hangs back for a moment. "I think.

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