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May 24, 2022

Gilroy bans sex clubs

Emergency ordinance passed with The Forum in mind
They never mentioned The Forum Social Club at Monday night’s
Gilroy City Council meeting. But it was obvious that an emergency
ordinance regarding the regulation of adult businesses was designed
to give the city one more weapon in its ongoing fight to shut down
the controversial couples-swapping sex club.
Emergency ordinance passed with The Forum in mind

They never mentioned The Forum Social Club at Monday night’s Gilroy City Council meeting. But it was obvious that an emergency ordinance regarding the regulation of adult businesses was designed to give the city one more weapon in its ongoing fight to shut down the controversial couples-swapping sex club.

“An emergency ordinance takes affect immediately,” said Assistant City Attorney Jolie Houston. “Now we can cite to that section. Before, they (The Forum) were getting citations for zoning without commercial use on open space and operating without a business license. Now it can be for sexual encounters at the establishment.”

By a 7-0 vote, the council adopted an amendment to an existing city code regarding the regulation of adult businesses.

The amended portion of the code entitled “Prohibition” read: “It shall be unlawful for any person to use any premises for a sexual encounter establishment or establish or operate a sexual encounter establishment in any zoning district of the city.”

The move does not bar all adult businesses, such as adult bookstores or movies, only establishments where sexual acts occur. It does prohibit The Forum from ever obtaining a Gilroy business license.

The updated code also went on to say that such an establishment is prohibited in order to protect health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Gilroy; protect citizens from increased crime; preserve the quality of life; preserve property values and the character of surrounding businesses and neighborhoods; and deter the spread of urban blight and protect against the threat to health from the spread of AIDS and STDS.

The club operates at a private ranch house on 5400 Monterey Road. It has been operating there every weekend since Aug. 16, despite being told by the city to cease its operations.

On Sept. 23, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge turned down the city’s request to put a temporary restraining order on the club that would have forced its immediate closure.

On Wednesday, the club’s owner Deena Luce was unaware of the city’s latest move.

“No comment. I haven’t heard anything about it. No comment,” said Luce.

On Nov. 12, the two sides will meet in a San Jose courtroom again for an order to show cause hearing, which the city hopes will result in a preliminary injunction on the property.

“At that time, the judge can order the business to cease until there’s a permanent injunction on the property,” said Houston.

Until then, the club will continue to be cited by the city.

While the council unanimously voted in favor of the emergency legislation, Councilman Peter Arellano had some questions about it.

“What if there are two, three, four, five, eight or 12 consenting adults there?” said Arellano. “I don’t think it’s up to the government to decide what they can or can’t do.”

Although nothing has been filed, it is speculated that Luce may turn around and sue the city if the club loses its case on Nov. 12.

“So far, we have only filed a response to the city,” said Luce last week. “I’m not going to say that we’re going to sue the city or not. But if we do, it will be based on First Amendment issues.”

On Monday night, Gilroy City attorney Linda Callon made it clear the any establishments of this nature would not be protected under the Constitution.

“Sexual encounter establishments do not have First Amendment protection,” said Callon.

Her colleague agreed.

“A California Court of Appeals rejected the argument that part of the swinging lifestyle was protected by the First Amendment,” said Houston. “The First Amendment, which both protects freedom of speech and association, does not embrace purely physical activities. Swinging, which is a free heterosexual activity; therefore does not per say qualify for First Amendment protection. And it is that reason why we feel we can prohibit it in the city of Gilroy.”

The club is open Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. and charges between $40 and $60 for admission. On Friday nights, it is open to singles and on Saturday night the club caters to couples with a swinging lifestyle.

The fact that the “club” charges admission is another concern of the city’s. The city believes that charging at the club for a service makes it a business by definition.

“If it is getting a monetary compensation, it is a business,” said Gilroy Mayor Tom Springer.

Prior to relocating to Gilroy, The Forum operated for nine years out of a private residence near Tennant and Railroad Avenues in an unincorporated area near Morgan Hill.

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