Last edited: March 26, 2005


City Reviews Licence for Gay Spa

Calgary Herald, December 17, 2002
Alberta, Canada
Email: letters@theherald.southam.ca

By Mario Toneguzzi, toneguzzim@theherald.southam.ca, with files from Suzanne Wilton, Calgary Herald

The City of Calgary licensing department is launching an investigation into a gay bathhouse raided last week by city police.

Police arrested 15 people and laid common bawdy house charges against Goliathís Sauna and Texas Lounge in southwest Calgary.

Marc Halat, the cityís chief licence inspector, said Monday that the establishment had a personal service licenceóapproved for baths, steam cabinets, steam baths, hot tubs or saunas. It also had licences for being a tobacco retailer and for food and alcohol.

However, it did not have a "lodging" or accommodation licence.

"If we did take enforcement action, our fines can run up to $10,000," said Halat, adding that wouldnít likely happen in this case. "If they (the bathhouse) were carrying out a business they were not licensed for, letís find out why."

Keith Purdy, an employee of the bathhouse and co-chairman of Pride Calgary, said the establishment has a city licence to operate a sauna and to rent its 36 private rooms.

He disputed police claims it was a common bawdy house.

"It is a facility where you rent a room not necessarily for sex," said Purdy. "Itís a cheap place to get a room for a night. If sex occurs, thatís your own prerogative. Itís a totally private thing."

Purdy said he could not comment on the cityís licensing investigation, but did say there are differences in licensing depending on how long a room is rented.

Halat said the bathhouse has to renew its licences each year at a cost of $200.

City police vice detectives entered Goliathís Sauna and Texas Lounge, at 308 17th Ave. S.W., at about 6 p.m. last Thursday. They arrested 13 people on charges of being found without lawful excuse in a common bawdy house and two employees for allegedly being the keepers of a common bawdy house.

The charges have enraged the local gay community.

On Monday, neither police Chief Jack Beaton, Const. Doug Jones, in charge of the gay and lesbian/police liaison committee, nor Staff Sgt. Joe Houben of the vice unit would comment on the situation.

The Calgary Police Service public affairs/media relations unit answered questions on the issue.

Robert Palmer, manager of the public affairs/media relations unit, said the police department is committed to working closely with the gay and lesbian community.

He said police could not discuss specifics of these charges because they are before the courts.

Palmer said police have instituted several initiatives to create better ties with the gay community:

  • Several years ago, police dedicated one officer to liaise with the gay community;
  • The gay and lesbian community/ police liaison committee was established;
  • The Calgary Police Service recruits in the gay community to ensure the force reflects the cityís diversity;
  • There are specialized responses to same-sex domestic violence complaints;
  • Police attend all major gay community events.

But Purdy said, "By no means is this over."

"The gay community is outraged to no end. Iíve never seen the gay community like this before. People are furious. The whole community is in shock. It was totally unexpected and totally uncalled for," he said.

Purdy said his first priority has been to arrange meetings with various individuals, including the mayor, on Thursday, and the chief of police.

"I will be in touch with other community leaders over the next few days and we will be planning strategy."

Purdy said the facility has operated for 35 years and never been raided before.

Stephen Lock, co-founder of the gay and lesbian community/police liaison committee, said police have "totally mishandled" this case.

"They went about it the wrong way. The bawdy house charges are ludicrous," said Lock. "Itís not illegal to have gay sex in Canada."

Mayor Dave Bronconnier said he will meet with the gay community if thatís what they want.

An emergency meeting of the police/gay community committee is being set up for later this week.


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