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"BDSM Club Seeks to Re-Open in NoMa"

on Sunday, 11 December 2011. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Washington City Paper

Proving that you can't keep a good swinger down, the Crucible—a "pansexual alternate lifestyles club" that lost its lease at 1815 Half Street on Buzzard Point in April—has found a new home. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs just issued a building permit for a small warehouse garage flanked by parking lots at 16 M Street NE, a block from the new Harris Teeter and around the corner from existing nightclubs Fur and Ibiza.

I'm not sure at this point what kind of opposition the BDSM fixture might run into. But I do know that they've probably got a good zoning lawyer. Recently, the club says on its homepage, they incorporated as a 501(c)7 non-profit. According to an email from Zoning Administrator Matt LeGrant justifying the award of a permit, non-profit status means it can't be classified as a "sexually oriented business establishment," and is instead a "private club." SOBEs, as they're affectionately called, can't open within within 600 feet of a church, school, library, playground, or the area under the jurisdiction of the Commission of Fine Arts. Plus, they have to get permission from the Board of Zoning Adjustment to operate in a commercial zone, giving neighbors a toehold to stop them (which is why Stadium Club fought the SOBE label tooth and nail). Private clubs, on the other hand, are allowed as a matter of right.

From my perspective, the only thing wrong with private clubs is that they're blank and impermeable to the street during the day—like dance halls, or even Georgetown's City Tavern—and so are not well-suited to aspiring pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods like NoMa. But that block isn't terribly walkable yet, so it wouldn't do any harm in the near term. And when someone buys the parcel for redevelopment, the club will just be displaced again anyway; such is the lot of sex clubs (as most of the old ones down by the ballpark learned years ago).

Still, I suspect that at least some residents will fret that the block is developing a reputation as a "red light district," which the Stadium Club's neighbors tried to claim as well. Thanks to their advance legal legwork, though, the Crucible might be in the clear.

The Crucible comes before Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C on Thursday.

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