Toronto
4 min

Fucking in the dark

Bijou patrons expected some privacy

POINT ZERO. The Bijou. Credit: Mark Bogdanovic

The man in the middle of The Bijou bust brouhaha has been silent through the controversy. Craig Anderson, owner of “Canada’s only porno bar” has not spoken publicly about police raids on his business between Jun 13 and Jul 1.



But at an Aug 4 community forum, called Community, Cops, Consensual Sex: Are We under Attack, Anderson’s friend Peter Bochove, responded to many of the allegations made by police and critics of The Bijou.



Bochove is also one of the principals of Spa Excess and was president and co-founder of the Richmond Street Health Emporium which was closed after being ransacked by police during the bathhouse raids in 1981.



Portions of Bochove’s speech are excerpted here.







Much has been made of the fact that The Bijou, in business for four years and four months, is not a bathhouse. It is a distinction which is lost on me.



The facility is private and all sex inside took place between consenting adults. No unsuspecting tourist would ever find The Bijou, as has been suggested by Division 52 Supt Aiden Maher.



The suggestion has been made that there was sex happening at the bar. Nonsense. The bar is a well-lit area. People who go to the Bijou fuck in the dark.



One of the charges laid against The Bijou and an allegation made by Supt Maher was that the Bijou is a fire trap. All of the Bijou’s fire equipment is up to date. It is a sprinkled facility. The exit doors onto Gerrard St have handles and these doors were not locked. Emergency lighting, which would come on in the event of a fire, would have made these handles clearly visible. A situation in which customers could not escape a fire did not exist. The police are not fire inspectors and no fire inspector was called to do an inspection or to back up this charge.



So what actually happened? A group of officers, under the guise of doing a liquor inspection, went into The Bijou and arrested four men, took them out individually and charged them with committing an indecent act in a public place.



They left a card for the owner to call them. The owner, Craig Anderson, did not call them. He called his lawyer. The police came back the next night and left another card. They did not hear back that day so they came back the following night and arrested another eight men and laid the same charges. Still no charges were laid against The Bijou or Mr Anderson. Just the customers.



And now the story takes a nasty turn. A meeting was arranged between City Councillor Kyle Rae, Supt Maher, Craig Anderson and Craig’s lawyer, George Marron, in Kyle’s office.



A deal was negotiated. Craig would put up a sign which indicated that The Bijou was a gay bar and he would not allow sex in the bar area. Under those conditions, Supt Maher told Craig he would not be bothered again and it would be “business as usual.”



Craig Anderson ordered this change made immediately. The sign went up and The Bijou opened for business.



A health inspector and a building inspector immediately visited The Bijou. Two more raids followed. More people were arrested and charged. The legal term for what happened to The Bijou and the people who were arrested after a senior police officer gave his assurance that there would be no further action taken there is… entrapment.



So what is the issue? Clearly it is one of privacy. The customers at The Bijou have been having sex in that facility for over four years. They had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Now 19 people that we know of — the police are not willing to let us know just how many were arrested – are facing charges which can ruin their lives.



We do not know how many have pleaded guilty. We know that many of these men are married, many are from ethnic minorities and all of them face criminal sex charges and a criminal record.



In spite of Kyle Rae’s efforts to reach an agreeable arrangement with the police which would result in having these charges dealt with, nothing concrete has happened. Many promises were made. None were kept.



Finally, two weeks after Craig closed The Bijou, some charges were laid under the Liquor Licence Act, charges which will be hotly contested in court.



While the damage done to the bathhouses in 1981 was carefully avoided, while use of the bawdy house laws was not an issue, innocent people were arrested and face ruin. Trust between the gay community and the police force is at an all time low. Those of us who choose to have sex outside the privacy of our own homes are on notice that we are no longer safe in our own clubs, bars and baths.



Yes, Supt Maher has assured us that the baths will not be raided. Det Sgt Singleton, in an interview published by Xtra, doesn’t seem to agree with this assurance.



The Bijou is closed in spite of the constant assurances of Supt Maher that it should open. Mr Anderson will keep the Bijou closed until this issue is resolved. No one in this community has any reason to believe that a re-opening of The Bijou will not result in more ruined lives. No one who knows anything about this issue could reasonably believe that the police would keep their word after this nasty bit of business.



The raids on The Bijou are no different than the bathhouse raids of 1981. Only the scale is different. We need a strong community based organization to attack this issue under the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms.



We need to clearly establish the legitimate concept that consenting adults can have sex together in an environment where all precautions have been taken to keep out the unsuspecting public.