Sex club pulling up its stakes

– Left with a bitter taste in its mouth from the Garlic City,
The Forum Adult Social Club held its last swingers’ party in Gilroy
Saturday night.
GILROY – Left with a bitter taste in its mouth from the Garlic City, The Forum Adult Social Club held its last swingers’ party in Gilroy Saturday night.

Following more than two months of heated controversy since the couple-swapping club began operating in south Gilroy on Aug. 16, owner Deena Luce has decided that Gilroy isn’t the place for her swingers’ club. It is not known where the unlicensed club is moving, but its Web site lists a full calendar of events for November.

“The (Forum) will not operate in the city of Gilroy again,” said Luce’s attorney Kevin Hutcheson this morning. “My client has decided to move, and all I can say is that it will not be in Gilroy city limits.”

City officials have worked feverishly to expel The Forum from Gilroy since it began operating in a ranch-style home every Friday and Saturday night at 5400 Monterey Road behind the Zen Flower Garden. The club previously operated in unincorporated Santa Clara County outside of Morgan Hill, near Railroad and Tennant avenues.

“I’m happy they’ve moved,” said Gilroy Mayor Tom Springer when informed of the news late Monday. “But it seems the only way to appease The Dispatch columnists would be to have it move downtown – that way it could attract more business there on Friday and Saturday nights to the area.”

While downtown Gilroy doesn’t look to be in The Forum’s future plans, the Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Martin is.

This morning Superior Court Judge Ray E. Cunningham heard a “not guilty” plea from Hutcheson on behalf of Luce and one of her employees at the club regarding numerous citations given to The Forum for operating without a business license.

Luce did apply for a business license through the city in August, but the application was denied because the land was residentially zoned. Hutcheson is arguing that Luce is not guilty because there are other commercial businesses in the area operating on residentially-zoned land, and that the city’s General Plan enables the land in question to become commercial as early as December. He said the city has acted with prejudice toward The Forum because of the nature of its business.

The Forum was served with two more citations for operating without a business license by Gilroy police Saturday and Sunday – bringing the grand total to 20.

Cunningham has scheduled a pre-trial hearing combining all 20 of the citations for Dec. 12.

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.

“We’ll either resolve it (on Dec. 12) or get ready to go to trial,” said Jolie Houston, the assistant city attorney prosecuting the case.

Luce was not at her court hearing today and will not comment on her club’s future, but she has repeatedly stated that she doesn’t think her business should be the city’s concern, and that too big a deal has been made of her club through the local media.

In an effort to muscle The Forum from city limits, City Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance on Oct. 7 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 have argued that sexual acts promote the spread of disease.