Last edited: February 13, 2005

New Adult Ordinance May Close Toledo’s Only Baths

Gay People’s Chronicle, May 16, 2003
P.O. Box 5426, Cleveland, Ohio 44101
Fax 216-631-1052

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 a day.

“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 condoms.

“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 appeared.

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 law.”

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