New Adult Ordinance May Close Toledo’s Only Baths
People’s Chronicle, May 16, 2003
P.O. Box 5426, Cleveland, Ohio 44101
By Anthony Glassman
TOLEDO—An ordinance designed to
curb illegal activity around strip clubs and adult theaters may result in the
closing of Toledo’s only gay men’s bathhouse.
The ordinance, which passed unanimously on January 21,
contains a number of provisions to regulate adult-oriented businesses,
including specifying the minimum height of stages, the distance dancers must
keep from patrons while naked, the conditions of booths in adult video arcades
and dozens of other regulations.
The part of the ordinance that most concerns the
management of the Diplomat, however, is one requiring adult-oriented
businesses to close between 2:30 and 6 am if they have no liquor license.
Adult-oriented businesses with liquor licenses can stay open only during the
hours they can serve alcohol.
The Diplomat, like most gay bathhouses, is open 24 hours
“Well, it’s going to hurt majorly because we’ll
have to close 30 hours a week,” said a manager at the Diplomat, who would
identify himself only as Charlie.
According to him, the ordinance, which takes effect for
existing businesses July 21, would cost the establishment half its business.
He said that the Diplomat would likely close in July.
Mike Beazley, Toledo’s clerk of council, said that the
Diplomat did not come up in discussions about the ordinance, which was aimed
primarily at adult businesses in residential areas.
“Sex businesses can cause or contribute significantly
to the deterioration of residential neighborhoods, can impair the quality of
such neighborhoods and the housing located therein, and can inhibit the proper
maintenance and growth of such neighborhoods,” the ordinance reads, citing a
city-mandated study entitled the “Toledo Sex Business Report.”
The report also noted that businesses of a sexual nature
promote “unlawful and unhealthy activities.” The ordinance’s intent was
primarily to curb prostitution at adult-oriented businesses, as well as sex
acts initiated in the businesses but continued outside the premises. Beazley
mentioned a number of complaints from residents about used condoms found on
the streets in neighborhoods near strip clubs and adult bookstores.
Gay bathhouse patrons, however, stay inside the club,
often using private rooms that rent like hotel rooms. Many bathhouses are a
focal point of safe-sex education for AIDS service organizations. Both men’s
clubs in Cleveland, Club Cleveland and Flex, work closely with the AIDS
Taskforce of Greater Cleveland to provide HIV testing, hepatitis vaccinations
and safe-sex workshops, as well as distributing large quantities of free
“They were always really involved,” said Ray Wolf,
CEO of Club Cleveland, of the founders of his facility. He pointed to their
work with syphilis and gonorrhea prevention in the decades before HIV
Another issue with the Toledo ordinance is the
Diplomat’s location. The facility is located in an industrial zone, not near
a residential neighborhood.
While Wolf questioned the enforceability of the ordinance
in regards to a private club, Beazley believes that it would stand up.
“In a preliminary view, the status as a private club
would not affect the enforcement of the ordinance,” Beazley said.
“If it was here [in Cleveland],” Wolf said, “we’d
have our attorneys contact the city law director and say, let’s talk.”
“These ordinances come up and a lot of times they’re
unconstitutional,” he noted. “It’s up to the courts to interpret the
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