Toronto
2 min

Another one down

Toolbox cans naked night following police visit

NO NUDIES. Lawyer Peter Simm came to the defence of the Barn when police shut down its nude dances. Credit: Jan Becker

The Toronto police have shut down another gay naked night.



After officers showed up at the Toolbox on Thu, Jul 27, owners Matt Shields and Bob Saunders decided that would be the last of the weekly naked nights.



“I had no idea that they were there until Matt made an announcement on the PA,” says Peter Gray, who was at the Toolbox that night. “He said that the police had been there, that they had said the naked nights had to stop. He did say in his announcement that he and Bob had four years left on their mortgage and they didn’t want to risk losing their business or whatever, so that they were canceling naked nights from that point on.”



Det Gary Campbell of 55 Division says no charges have yet been filed.



“I believe it’s an ongoing community complaint and they’ve been in there several times,” says Campbell. “I believe it’s a specific activity that’s going on in the bar against the Liquor Licence Act. They’re still investigating so I don’t want to jeopardize their investigation by releasing information.”



Det Campbell says the Toolbox was visited by four officers in plain clothes.



The head of 55 Division, Superintendent Alan Griffiths, would not return calls himself, instead forwarding them to Campbell.



The police also paid a visit to the Toolbox in November, acting on a complaint that people were engaging in sex on the premises. When police arrived they found nothing illegal and merely informed the owners that a complaint had been made.



The Toolbox (at 508 Eastern Ave) is a leather bar located in Riverdale – far from the downtown hub of the gay community.



The Toolbox’s Shields says owners have absolutely nothing to say to Xtra.



There is a clothes check for the Thursday Naked Nights. There’s also a “maze” inside the bar, which has now been cordoned off.



The Toolbox is not the lone gay establishment to attract recent police attention. Police charged 18 patrons of The Bijou (a porn theatre turned bathhouse) with indecent acts one year ago – the charges were dropped after a public outcry. But police still kept coming back, and the establishment gave up its liquor licence in order to keep the cops out.



Officers have also repeatedly visited the Barn and charged its owner with permitting “disorderly conduct” earlier this year during a Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity social event. Police saw no sex – the problem was nudity; the court date has been set for Dec 15 and naked events are not banned at the bar.



The Barn and The Bijou are in 52 Division.



Peter Simm, the lawyer for TNT MEN involved in the Barn bust, has filed a brief arguing that the regulation in the Liquor Licence Act does not prohibit nudity.



“Disorderly conduct must mean something that is similar to riotous conduct, that is similar to violent conduct, that is similar to quarrelsome conduct,” said Simm back when the Barn was charged in March. “None of those have any connotations of immorality or sexuality or whatever.”



“We still have a number of naked events, but the ones that are currently being held are not at licensed premises,” Simm said in a recent interview. “It’s really the fact that there’s a liquor licence involved that gives police special leeway in the case of the Barn or the Toolbox.”



Simm warns that if the Barn is convicted, heterosexual nudists could be the next target. Several nudist resorts in southern Ontario do hold liquor licences – which they could lose if a precedent is set.



“I’m confident that the police interpretation of the regulation will not prevail and that the judge will acquit and that will clarify the law favourably to people who like to have a cold one unencumbered by clothes,” says Simm.