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AZ Republic Article -
 Why Police Avoided Gay Clubs
Just Busted Heterosexual Swing Clubs

Phoenix gets aggressive with sex clubs
By Tom Zoellner The Arizona Republic Sept. 24, 2002
Reprinted with full credit under fair use provision of the U.S. copyright law for education and no commercial purpose

Phoenix has twice tried to shut down a handful of nightclubs where couples socialize, eat buffet food and have sex with each other in theme rooms.

Defenders argue that the only difference between places like Club Chameleon and Discretions and a bar is a shortening of the awkward journey from eye contact to the bedroom.

But the city has a problem with that. The sex is taking place in what is legally defined as a place of public access, says assistant city prosecutor Jimmy Hays.

"If they want to try and operate these places as what is called an 'off-premises swingers club,' where couples meet and exchange phone numbers and go off in private, then go ahead," Hays said.

"Just don't do it on the premises."

The city tried to drive that point home Friday night with a raid on the five heterosexual swingers clubs in town.

Arrested were Milo Fencl, the owner of Club Chameleon; Eleanor Peters, the manager of Discretions; Tamara Doyle, the manager of Encounters; and Willian Markus, the owner of Guys and Dolls. Police found no violations at the fifth club.

Both this weekend's raid and a 1999 police action came after developments in a federal court case that challenges the constitutionality of a 1998 city ordinance that outlaws the clubs. In 1999, citations were issued via mail.

Friday's actions were predicated by U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver's denial in August of a request for an injunction.

"We decided this summer that we would take a more aggressive approach," Hays said. "This is an efficient way to send a message."

The raid did not include at least two similar clubs that cater to same-sex customers, Hayes said, because, "any businesses which cater to gays are given special consideration by the city so we are not perceived as discriminating."

Hays said that the gay clubs aren't as blatant about their advertising or the public spectacle of copulation.

"They still must comply with the law. We'll get around to investigating them if there are reports of the law being broken," he said.

The attorney for several of the swingers clubs decried the raid as a publicity stunt.

"This is something I would expect (Sheriff) Joe Arpaio to do," attorney Nick Hentoff said. "It's one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen in Maricopa County."

Hays said the city is trying to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as maintain standards of public decency and morality.

David Salcido, the managing editor of Playtime magazine, said he was in Club Chameleon the night of the raid, helping with an art exhibit. Swinging is not one of his pastimes, but he defends the clubs as clean and discreet.

"It's not a place for single guys on the prowl," he said.
 

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