City staff’s attemptto revoke the Fox porn theatre’s licence has failed, but the venue will only be allowed to stay open if it meets several strict conditions, including conducting a physical check inside the auditorium every half hour.

Vancouver’s chief licence inspector Barb Windsor recommended to city council in March that the Main St theatre’s business licence be revoked because of “indecent acts” allegedly taking place inside, people smoking in contravention of bylaws, prostitution, needles in the back alley and numerous complaints from neighbouring businesses.

The Fox is a popular destination among gay men, people questioning their sexuality, people who like crossdressing and people who enjoy kinky play. It has had a licence to operate for 11 years.

Recently, the demographics in its neighbourhood have shifted, and a new community centre is due to open opposite the theatre later this year.

The issue returned to council May 13 for a vote.

“I think the political will was live and let live,” says community activist Jamie Lee Hamilton of council’s decision to allow the Fox to keep operating.

“We want people to be able to have the freedom to engage in their lifestyle without fear of criminalization,” Hamilton adds.

The brouhaha over the theatre’s licence began earlier this year when Vancouver police Const Mark Jarvie went undercover to the theatre to investigate complaints received from neighbours.

Jarvie reported seeing men engaging in sexual acts with one another, as well as female prostitutes with clients. He also reported that he was approached and propositioned.



Uniformed police also reportedly witnessed sex acts in other visits last year, as well as an overwhelming pungent odour, puddles of body fluids and excrement, and people smoking.

Windsor told a council committee Mar 24 that police had received numerous complaints from neighbouring businesses. Under questioning from Fox operator Xiaohua “Lisa” Huang’s lawyer, Windsor conceded that the theatre had in fact implemented changes prior to the March hearing.

In addition to changes already made, Huang must now also conduct a physical check inside the auditorium every half hour, ensure a written log of those checks is kept, meet with the local Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Area (BIA) to discuss its concerns, and meet with Windsor to discuss her concerns and what management changes might be necessary to ensure minimum impact to the neighbourhood.

Hamilton takes exception to the requirement for checks.

“So what if some old guy is in there jerking off,” she says. “Is that really harming anyone? Men are known to masturbate.

“As long as a business operates without harming anyone, leave businesses like that alone,” she says.

Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva says he was shocked at councillors’ naivety about what goes on at an adult theatre — and the restrictions they’ve now placed on the Fox.

“It’s people riding their moral high horse to gentrify a community,” Deva says. “I wish they’d just crawl off their high horse, and understand how society works and how sexuality works.”

Deva says the restrictive checks could have the opposite effect of what is intended and push people masturbating from the theatre and into the new community centre washrooms.
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