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Tampa’s Pleasure Palace Set for September 3 Hearing

TAMPA – The Pleasure Palace is a place where “sexy is the dress code” and “where the world comes to play,” according to its Web site.

Hillsborough County code enforcement officials use more succinct language, calling the business at 8504 E. Adamo Drive “a sexual encounter center” and a “swingers club.”

A Sept. 3 hearing will determine if the Pleasure Palace is in violation of the county’s ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses.

Under the law, an adult entertainment business and its employees must have licenses to remain open. The Pleasure Palace does not, Jim Blinck, operations manager for county code enforcement said.

Employees of such establishments, which include adult bookstores, video stores and strip clubs, cannot participate in sex on the premises or be totally nude there, Blinck said.

At the Pleasure Palace, “people come in and watch or participate” in sex acts, Blinck said.

First Amendment lawyer Luke Lirot represents the Pleasure Palace and said the business is a private membership club that caters to people with “more progressive sexual viewpoints.”

The business, open for seven years, has managed to avoid the county’s definition of an adult entertainment establishment in the past, Lirot said. The Pleasure Palace is not a strip club, where someone walks off the street and views a performance, he said.

“The time-tested arguments against dance clubs don’t even apply,” he said.

The Pleasure Palace is split into two areas, a bottle club and a private members club where people can meet others, conduct conversations and engage in experiences that broaden viewpoints, Lirot said.

“Nobody is dragged into the business,” he said. “It’s purely voluntary, purely consensual.”

Because of those differences, Lirot said he feels the county’s definitions of a sexually oriented business have no bearing on the Pleasure Palace.

Hillsborough sheriff’s Maj. Paul Davis said his agency investigated the club earlier this year and said that other than the code violations, no criminal activity has occurred at the Pleasure Palace.

The Sept. 3 quasi-judicial hearing will decide if the business is illegal and needs to be shut down, Davis said.

“It’s obviously not everybody’s cup of tea,” Lirot said. “But these are human beings. It’s an ideological issue, not an environmental or zoning issue.”

In 2006, the county toughened up ordinances governing sexually oriented businesses. Commissioners hired an outside attorney who specializes in helping local governments draft ordinances pertaining to adult entertainment establishments, conducted a lengthy public hearing process and included language that stated the proposed laws were not meant to impede dancers’ and entertainers’ First Amendment rights.

A federal judge upheld the ordinances in October 2006, ruling that the ordinances “do not constitute a ban on sexually oriented businesses, but rather on time, place and manner.”

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