Toronto
3 min

Cops charge 12 with indecency

Bijou porn theatre targeted in two separate raids

Credit: Jan Becker

Twelve men face criminal sex charges after two pre-Pride police sweeps on a downtown porn bar.



The Bijou – located at the corner of Gerrard and Church – was also cited for provincial liquor licence infractions when undercover cops charged a dozen patrons with committing indecent acts.



Eight men were arrested during the first bust on Jun 13. Another four were booked on Jun 15. All were given notices to appear in court next month, then released.



“If you want a liquor licence, you’ve got to make sure that you do a number of legislatively-mandated things,” says 52 Division’s Det Sgt Doug Singleton, who visited the Bijou after the charges were laid.



“I don’t think my officers could have – in good conscience – dealt with [only] the provincial offences going on when there are other things which come within the Criminal Code. You can’t sort of look the other way and say, ‘I didn’t see that.'”



The Bijou faces charges of disorderly conduct, failing to provide bar and food menus, failing to provide supervision, failing to comply with the fire act and failing to post its liquor licence.



Although the establishment bills itself as “Canada’s only porno bar,” Singleton claims the sweeps were not aimed at rooting out men who were getting it on with other men.



“No,” Singleton says, when asked if his officers were looking to put the squeeze on queers. “They knew they had a liquor licence.”



He also claims that this was no pre-Pride roust, and that his department isn’t interested in cracking down on bathhouses as it did in 1981 – the infamous raids that resulted in the arrest of more than 300 people and galvanized the gay community to demonstrate in the streets against police harassment.



“They haven’t been in bathhouses for years. We at 52 Division have had a good relationship with the gay community for an awful long time now. If you run a liquor licence establishment, you’re going to have plainclothes officers coming in.”



But a number of the city’s tubs also serve suds. So why wouldn’t they be next?



“We have 2,400 establishments in our division, so I don’t think my officers have been able to get into every one of them in the course of a number of years.”



Gay City Councillor Kyle Rae says the fact that the shakedowns occurred two weeks before Pride “is a coincidence.” He says police were expecting to find patrons “munching on popcorn.”



“It’s not a bathhouse. It’s licensed as a theatre. This is the problem that many people are having in dealing with this.



“It’s licensed under the Ontario Theatre Act, and so when police officers go in, they don’t expect to find anything other than people watching movies. Whereas if they went to a bathhouse, they would know that was different, and that was not licensed by the city.”



While Rae claims police didn’t know they were going to find sex acts occurring in an establishment that bills itself as “Canada’s only porno bar,” that alibi hardly explains why the cops went back to the Bijou two nights after the original bust to make four more arrests.



Rae says he knows the officer who was behind all this, and that cop is all right in his book.



“I have worked with him on drug problems in the downtown area, and I have never seen any problem with him. I think he fell upon it unexpectedly.”



Rae says the 12 charges are about as serious as a traffic offence.



While none of the men are likely to end up doing hard time, criminal lawyer Frank Addario says the maximum penalty for committing an indecent act is six months in the clink and a $2,000 fine. Plus a record.



“It’s a Criminal Code offence, and criminal convictions can have significant and long-term consequences for people,” Addario says. “They can create immigration problems going to other countries. They can create employment problems, and of course the publicity can be ruinous.”



Addario says first-time offenders will generally get a discharge or a fine.



“No one is likely to go to jail, particularly where the court takes the view that these are consensual crimes, and essentially they’re victimless crimes, which points out the reason to question [why] police are spending scarce resources pursuing the investigation and prosecution of consensual crimes.”



Meanwhile, two of the men have contacted Rae’s office looking for help.



“They don’t want a splash about this,” says Rae. “They’re very anxious about this. They don’t need Xtra doing a crusade on it. It’s not a bathhouse, and I’ve met with some of the bathhouse owners, and they were freaking out.



“‘Oh, what’s going to happen? The bathhouses are going to get raided.’ And I said hold on. The Bijou is not a bathhouse. They’re licensed by the city. Don’t get confused that what happened here will happen to you. I don’t believe that is so.”



As for the Bijou, staff is responding with silence. “I really can’t discuss it on the advice of my lawyer,” said a man who answered the phone but refused to identify himself. “It really wouldn’t be in our best interests or anyone’s best interests.



“I think things should be left alone until we can try and find out what happened here.”