Toronto
4 min

Bathhouse busted

The Bijou's newest regulars - cops - will charge the business

CELEBRITY CASHIER. Employee Sky Gilbert was on duty and buzzed in the coppers. Credit: Xtra files

Toronto’s newest bathhouse faces at least one charge after police allegedly witnessed a customer going down on another this week.



Staff at The Bijou bathhouse – formerly The Bijou porn bar – were

told by two plainclothed officers late Tuesday night that the tub will be charged with permitting disorderly conduct.



“They said, ‘This place is back to the way it was before,'” said

cashier Sky Gilbert, minutes after the latest police action – the second impromptu visit from coppers since The Bijou re-opened two weeks ago.



“I caught a note of disdain in his voice, and I thought that they

didn’t want to look at the videos.



“They said they were laying disorderly conduct charges, and then left.”



Gilbert – the beleaguered Bijou’s newest celebrity cashier, himself an author and playwright – said two undercover cops asked to be let in shortly after 11pm.



“They looked like ordinary patrons,” he said from behind the counter soon after the visit.



“One was tall with long hair and a rocker look. The other was

shorter, beefier with close-cropped hair. They identified themselves as plainclothes police officers from 52 Division. They were polite. I asked to see their ID, and they produced it immediately.”



Gilbert said he buzzed the two men in, and that they appeared to go directly to the infamous slurp ramp.



After claiming to have witnessed fellatio in the pitched-out darkness, police told Gilbert they wanted to speak to the manager.



“They were certainly here for a very brief time,” said Gilbert.



“Ten minutes – maximum,” echoed Joseph Couture, who was in the building that night and is working on a documentary about the raids. “Most of that time, they were talking to us.



“They said they saw a guy getting a blow job.”



The club’s manager refused to talk about details, but confirmed the story.



Gilbert says there were only about 15 people inside at the time.



However, minutes after the latest police action, shadows were increasingly congregating in the dark around the slurp ramp again as

attendance picked up.



“If you walk in there, you can’t see anything,” says Gilbert. “I

just walked in there and I can’t see anything.”



Gay Downtown City Councillor Kyle Rae didn’t know the visit was coming. And he says enough’s enough.



“The police have now crossed the line [by] harassing businesses

that have been licensed by the city,” Rae said in a prepared statement delivered by staff early Wednesday.



“It’s mind boggling that police resources are wasted on these

victimless crimes involving consenting adults. I will be having meetings with the police to discuss this. It is my belief that rogue officers are using their discretion to attack gay businesses.”



Neither of the officers thought to be involved could be reached for comment.



But Sgt Lorna Kozmik of corporate communications said: “Our plainclothes officers did a routine check at The Bijou last night, and apparently the slurp ramp is active again and they were witnessing fellatio and what not.



“There is an impending charge under the liquor licence act for permitting disorderly conduct. It hasn’t happened yet, but all the information has been taken and the [charge] is inevitable.”



It’s the second time police have visited The Bijou in two weeks.



Coppers also cruised The Bijou within hours of its millennium

re-opening.



Raided until it was mothballed last summer, the porn bar became a bathhouse on Dec 30.



Minutes after midnight, the coppers were back, too.



“They were there to see what had changed,” said Art

Whitaker, the cashier who was on that night (he was charged with obstruction during a Canada Day raid; that charge was later dropped).



“There was also, I think, an intimidation factor,” says Whitaker.



“One was an inspector, by the way, so I buzzed them in and they

walked around. They were heard by the bartender saying, ‘The place wasn’t very busy,’ or, ‘It’s dead.'”



Whitaker said the two officers inspected the premises for 10 minutes, then left.



This comes five months after 18 customers were charged with committing an indecent act during three raids, closing the club.



In the interim, Bijou owner Craig Anderson obtained a bathhouse licence, hoping for the same hands-off treatment the city’s eight other tubs seem to enjoy.



Re-opening with little fanfare, attendance has steadily increased, but Whitaker says numbers remain down.



As for the renovations, Whitaker said: “Not much has changed. [There’s] a dry sauna, shower room, and lockers.”



June 13 Comittee chair Tom Warner said last week that a little steam might not be protection enough.



“The fact that they came back to look at it is obviously a message

that they’re keeping an eye on The Bijou,” said Warner.



“There’s nothing in law that says they can’t, [but] if they were to

go in and arrest people it would be considered a raid on the bathhouses. The Bijou is now a licensed bathhouse and that would be a breach.”



Supt Aidan Maher, the head of 52 Division, said – before this latest police visit – that things aren’t like that at all.



“That would have been one of a number of establishments they would

have checked,” he said.



Maher then asked if The Bijou still has a liquor licence. When told

it does, he said, “It’s a licensed establishment.



“[A bathhouse licence] doesn’t change anything. It’s still subject

to being reviewed by officers.”



That’s what Maher said during the raids, so can Bijou bath

customers expect to be arrested?



“Well, I wouldn’t say that,” Maher said. “Again, I would say not

unless it’s as flagrant as before. The same rules apply that have always applied. It’s flagrant, it would be subject – and we have to respond to complaints.”



But Maher had very little to say this week.



The superintendent could not confirm whether or not the charge was pending, saying the officers involved were in court.



And that’s it.



Although chief Crown attorney Paul Culver announced last September that indecent act charges against Bijou customers would be dropped, he has vowed to prosecute similar cases in the future.



During the weeks leading up to The Bijou’s re-opening, the manager

of a gay Toronto strip club was found guilty of indecency and bawdy house charges. Police visited another bar to check for sex.



The good news is that the Supreme Court Of Canada has deemed it legal for male customers to fondle female strippers.