Sex club owner pleads not guilty

SAN MARTIN
– The owner of The Forum Adult Social Club will continue to
fight for her right to operate the swinger’s club in Gilroy.
SAN MARTIN – The owner of The Forum Adult Social Club will continue to fight for her right to operate the swinger’s club in Gilroy.

In county superior court this morning Kevin S. Hutcheson – the attorney defending Deena Luce, The Forum’s owner – registered a not guilty plea on behalf of Luce and an employee of the club who have now received 14 citations from Gilroy police for operating the club without a business license.

Penalties for operating without a license are up to a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, $500 for a third offense, and a $1,000 fine and up to six months jail time for each offense after three.

This morning, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Kenneth L. Shapero heard the not guilty plea and scheduled a pre-trial hearing for Dec. 12, when three separately planned citation hearings for Luce will be combined into one.

Luce was not at the hearing in San Martin this morning.

“Before (Luce) moved into the building, it was used for commercial purposes,” Hutcheson said following the hearing this morning. “A limo service operated there for years, and there is another commercial business on the same land parcel. … This is unfair treatment.”

On Oct. 7 City Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance barring sexual encounter establishments – such as The Forum – from operating within city limits. This does not bar all adult businesses, such as adult movie or bookstores, only establishments where sexual acts occur.

City officials argue that sexual acts promote the spread of disease.

A temporary injunction hearing on the matter against Luce is now scheduled for Nov. 12. If granted, the injunction will force Luce to suspend her business while the city pursues a permanent injunction.

The Forum was denied a business license Sept. 18 due to its zoning restrictions.

“(The defense) will argue that this is a First Amendment matter, but it’s not,” said Councilman Bob Dillon, who watched the trial this morning. “These sexual acts are not protected by law because they can be harmful to the community. (The city) will do everything we can to protect ourselves.”

Hutcheson said neither he nor Luce had been informed of the revised ordinance.

Assistant City Attorney Jolie Houston, who represented the city this morning, did not make herself available for comments after the hearing.

“They are citing my client with a violation of a new law and not presenting us with anything in writing,” Hutcheson said.

“So I’m not prepared to comment on this ordinance I know nothing about. What we are not hearing anywhere is that this parcel is zoned for commercial use under the city’s general plan, which could go into effect as early as November.”

Feverishly working to expel The Forum from the city since it began operating Aug. 16, the city has also contacted the property owner of the land to try to evict Luce.

Coun Nguyen, the property owner of the residentially-zoned property at 5400 Monterey Road, behind Zen Flower Garden, had promised the city he would file for an eviction last month, Dillon said.

But as of this morning, the County Clerk did not possess any such documents. That irritates Dillon.

“I’m disappointed the landlord hasn’t filed an unlawful detainer suit like he said he would weeks ago,” Dillon said. “This raises some questions.”

Nguyen was also scheduled to appear for the citation hearings this morning, but did not show up or have any legal representation present. He could not be reached for comment by press time.

A bench warrant has now been issued for Nguyen with a $6,000 bail.

The Forum is open 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights and charges $40 to $60 for entrance.

The club’s Web site is advertising an all-night Halloween party for Oct. 26 – the last event on the calendar – and predicting at least 150 couples will attend. With prices raised from $40 to $75 for the party, The Forum could scoop in at least $11,250 for the bash.

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