The head of the Adult Entertainment Association says Toronto has been negligent over the past five years by allowing sex clubs to operate without any regulation, creating a “Wild West” industry.
Tim Lambrinos, executive director of the Adult Entertainment Association, a non-profit business stakeholder association, says clubs like Urge should be regulated.
“Toronto has this weird policy that if they can’t find a suitable licence for you, you don’t require one,” says club owner Ryan Cook, pointing to his signed City of Toronto business licence posted on the office wall indicating there is no licence required.
And Urge is not alone, Lambrinos says. Most sex clubs in Toronto have a $150 business licence and operate under the guidelines from the 2005 swingers’ club Supreme Court ruling.
“The City of Toronto has been negligent in not following up in the last five years to even set up guidelines and licensing,” he says. “So there’s this huge grey area. It comes down to the criminal code and what is considered indecent. In the past, the measure of decency is considered by community standards, standards of the City of Toronto.”
In 2005 the courts ruled that establishments can’t just be “indecent,” they must do some actual harm to people, he says. What’s indecent to one person may not be indecent to another.
Todd Klinck, co-owner of Goodhandy’s, says he would like to see the murky grey area remain grey and murky.
“You’re not going to get a straight answer from anyone in the city,” he says. “It’s a grey area. And I don’t want to give you a straight answer myself because grey areas are kind of good.”
Klinck says he would rather keep the police, politicians and bureaucrats out of sex clubs entirely. He says club owners are regulating themselves successfully, so why break what’s already fixed.
“The federal court said it’s okay, so why do municipalities have to add another layer?” he says. “There’s no appetite for it.”
But Lambrinos says he’s in the process of proposing that city councillors, business owners and other stakeholders get together for a “swingers’ club round table” to create a new bylaw specifically geared to sex clubs.
“Swingers’ clubs cause a nuisance in the area as well. Bottles end up on the street, condoms get tossed around the area,” he says. “These sex clubs are working under the impression it’s the Wild West out there.”
Dave Auger, general manager of Remington’s Strip Bar on Yonge St, agrees.
“We are the only licensed strip club in Toronto for gay men,” he says. “We pay $12,000 a year for our licence for a reason. We are regulated, monitored. We abide by all laws.”