From Issue 2.3 - December 1995/January 1996

Tension Rises Over New Sex Club Regulations

By Liz Highleyman

This summer a proposal was initiated by city supervisor Tom Amiano to institute new regulations governing sex clubs in San Francisco. The new regulations would amend Part II, Chapter V of the city's health code. Among other items, the proposed changes would require permits for "commercial sex establishments" and set requirements for such things as lighting, monitors and structural features.

As written, the proposed changes would affect not only dedicated commercial sex clubs, but also semi-public parties -- including SM parties -- such as the events sponsored by LINKS, Blow Buddies, Queen of Heaven, etc., which collect money to cover rent and party expenses. It is possible that houses of professional dominance and submission, as well as strip clubs and other entertainment venues (especially those featuring lap dancing and live sex shows) will also fall within the scope of the regulations. As defined in the proposal, "sexual activities" includes several activities that commonly occur as part of SM scenes.

The Coalition for Healthy Sex (CHS) is a group of local health department officials, members of AIDS service organizations, safe sex eucators, and owners, operators and sponsors of sex clubs and parties. The CSH has reviewed the proposed regulations and submitted their concerns to the SF Department of Public Health AIDS Office and the city attorney. Tracy Packer, of the AIDS Office, stated that the goal now is to devise regulations that will "make all stakeholders happy."

The management of the Playground club strongly supports the new regulations, and recently released a flyer stating that they have "actively taken on the task of managing [the CSH]." The CSH officially disavowed this assertion at their November 14 meeting, stating that "the CHS has never been managed by any single individual or group...nor has the coalition given management power to the Playground...". [Since that time, the owner of the Playground has agreed to revise the flyer to address the concerns of other members of the CSH].

Some owners and sponsors of other sex clubs and parties claim that Playground management is trying to force through the new regulations in an attempt to drive them out of business, and contend that the Playground ownership has made direct statements to that effect. Many small clubs and party sponsors do not have the resources to remake their facilities to conform to the proposed regulations, nor do they wish to be forced to register with the police. There have also been allegations that the Playground is guilty of various health and safety violations.

For their part, Playground management alleges that some of their competitors are engaged in a campaign of harrassment against the club, including making unfounded complaints to the fire department that resulted in interference with an Asian AIDS Project benefit underwear party on November 17 and subsequent temporary closure of the club.

CSH meetings are ongoing. CU will continue to provide coverage of the issue in future editions of CU.

© 1995, Cuir Underground

Last updated: 16 December 1995