A drive-by shooting at the Kittens club in South Melbourne on Friday. Photo: Eddie Jim Police at the scene of the Kittens strip club in South Melbourne. Photo: Eddie Jim
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A policeman at the Kittens club in South Melbourne. Photo: Eddie Jim

That a brazen daylight shooting can spark both fear and relief is sign of how deeply disaffected residents and businesses have become with the continued existence of the Kittens strip club chain.

In the latest attack on Friday, a masked gunman opened fire on the South Melbourne venue in the middle of the afternoon, pumping three bullets into the facade that is just metres from the entrance to a busy shopping centre.

It was the third time in less than a year the Cecil Street club has been peppered with bullets, but the first where the attack was in broad daylight.

This time no one was hurt, unlike in January when a security guard was hit in the head by pellets from a drive-by shotgun blast.

At 3pm on Friday, a gunman stepped from a car parked at the kerb to fire across a footpath routinely used by residents in nearby apartment towers to reach the supermarket, retailers and the South Melbourne market.

“At night the street is pretty deserted but during the day people use it all the time,” local resident Tim Harris said.

Police had hardly left the scene on Friday before the bullet holes had been spackled over and painted.

The club opened for business that night, seemingly chalking the incident up to the cost of doing business.

But others see it as a potential public health issue.

“It’s the third time in a year. It’s not stopping, it’s getting worse. What’s next, a firebombing?” one worker from the area said.

That’s exactly what happened in February at the Caulfield venue, which went up in flames just after its 3am closing time.

Some Caulfield locals say the shock of that attack has given way to relief that the gutted club has still not reopened.

Thanks to a bizarre planning decision, Kittens has kept its prime spot in the midst of a village-style row of shops on Glen Huntly Road right next to hairdressing salons, cafes and take-away restaurants.

“That place has been a menace since it opened – noise, vomit in the street, fighting, the nasty types that go to it,” one local said. “They should give the guy who burned it down a medal.”

The alleged arsonist is Mark Ahern, a suspected associate of the Comanchero bikie gang. The 31-year-old is the only person to be charged for the four attacks on Kittens, which may or may not be related.

Victoria Police has suggested the firebombing and shooting may be part of a larger extortion racket being waged by bikies on security industry operators that hold contracts to guard the clubs.

But who is staging the attacks is not nearly as important to locals as the desire for them to simply stop.

Nearly everyone willing to talk about what it’s like living and working next to the Kittens chain is afraid to be publicly identified. They just want to be left out of it.

“I can’t understand how these places are allowed to remain open,” a resident said.

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