"City grills would-be S&M club owner"
A three-member city panel riddled a local businessman with questions about his proposed south city bondage club Thursday. South St. Louis County businessman Joe Kriegesmann described his business as a 46,000-square-foot warehouse at 3130 Gravois Avenue, in which he is already holding classes for those who would like to learn bondage and sadomasochism practices.
He insisted that his club would be safe, and that he has been honest with city and neighborhood leaders. The club, if approved for occupancy, would be the first of its kind in the state. But the conditional use panel wanted more details. How would the club, asked city hearing officer Terrill Eiland, teach its lessons?
"We use every method possible, sir," responded Kriegesmann.
Which includes, Eiland asked, "demonstrations?"
"Yes, sir. We allow no sex and nudity during those times either, sir," Kriegesmann said.
Can the audience participate?
"Yes, they're allowed to practice after the classes. When they go practice, there's somebody who knows what they're doing and watches over them ... so nobody gets hurt."
Alderman Craig Schmid, neighborhood stabilization officer Barbara Potts and Benton Park West Neighborhood Association President Linda Hennigh all testified that Kriegesmann has not been honest about his club. He opened before telling anyone his plans and before getting the proper permits, and he has changed his story repeatedly, they said. And all three said they are now worried about public safety in the old brick warehouse.
"Ostensibly, the application is for educational seminars," Schmid said. "But I cannot reasonably ignore what is the actual use of the facilities."
Sitting in classrooms and listening to teachers is one thing, Schmid continued. But hanging people from the ceiling is quite another. "I find it difficult to find any reason to support this application," he concluded.
Potts told the hearing officers that she wasn't against the club's activities. "What I'm more in opposition to is how it's all come about," she said. "I feel Joe Kriegesmann has been his own worst enemy. He started out on the wrong path."
Kriegesmann said the city has no occupancy or business licenses that fit his club, and he urged the panel to consider adding laws to city code.
"We don't fit under anything," he retorted. "You tell me what I should go under. Please explain to me why my civil rights are being violated. I am legal."
Eiland said the city's Board of Public Service will make the final decision in about a week and a half.
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