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City may force Vancouver porn theatre to close

Bathhouses could be next, activist warns

Community activist Jamie Lee Hamilton says the city of Vancouver’s attempt to revoke the Fox porn cinema’s licence is nothing more than a collusion of business people and politicians seeking to enforce their own notion of morality.

And that, she says, affects members of the queer community, especially those who may be questioning their sexuality, or who engage in crossdressing or who enjoy kink.

The Fox is “an environment they can go to safely without being harmed,” she explains.

Hamilton says closing a venue for such activities is dangerous.

“That kind of approach has done a great deal of harm,” she says. “The Pickton case is a great example. We create killing fields for sadists to roam and we’re worried about a porn theatre. That’s obscene.”

This attempt to hound Fox operator Xiaohua “Lisa” Huang out of business is something the city’s licenced bathhouse owners should take seriously, Hamilton warns.

The issue of revoking the long-time porn theatre’s business licence went before a committee of council Mar 24.

Huang has had a licence to operate the Main St theatre for 11 years.

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

Vancouver police Const Mark Jarvie went undercover to the theatre earlier this year after police received complaints 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.

People were even smoking, police reported.

The police say the Fox is a health problem and in breach of local bylaws as well as provincial and federal regulations.

Now Vancouver’s chief licence inspector Barb Windsor is recommending city council revoke the theatre’s business licence.

Councillor Suzanne Anton asked Huang if she had witnessed men performing oral sex on each other or masturbating in the theatre.

“I don’t see those things,” answered Huang, who later confirmed condoms were on the lobby counter. “I don’t think it is that often. 

Once in a while, if I see it, they stop.”

Huang characterized the theatre as something of a “social club.”

Councillor Heather Deal didn’t accept that.

“We can’t deny what your business is,” she told Huang. “Calling it a social club is a bit of a stretch.”

Hamilton disagrees.

She accuses Deal of engaging in a “moral panic interrogation” of Huang.

“It’s a community unto itself,” Hamilton says. “It’s not a stretch to say it’s a social club at all, albeit in the form of a porn theatre. 

“It’s not much different from our gay steam baths which are city licensed,” she says.

Windsor says Huang was sent a letter outlining concerns about the business last September.

She told the committee there were problems with indecent acts in the theatre, people smoking in contravention of bylaws, prostitution and needles in the back alley.

There have also been numerous complaints from neighbouring businesses, Windsor noted.

“It would appear to me nothing has changed,” Windsor said. “I would recommend the licence be revoked.”

Under questioning from Huang’s lawyer, though, Windsor conceded many of the changes have in fact been made.

Huang says she’s a member of the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Area organization but she’s received no support from the group.

She says one board member told her she should shut down.

Huang says she prohibits people she believes to be prostitutes from entering the theatre.

She did seem taken aback that there could be such a thing as male prostitutes.

Hamilton says the issue is more the city’s puritanical approach to dealing with issues of sexuality.

She still remembers the city’s 2002 raid on her Tranny Shack business on Davie St.

The city is in receipt of ads from online hookup sites with men arranging to meet at the theatre for sex.

A check of Craigslist indicates people of all sexualities suggest meeting at the Fox Theatre.

The hearing resumes at city hall May 13.