By Agrippina Fadel
A swingers club failed to convince Tamarac’s planning board that their business should not be considered adult entertainment for zoning purposes.
On April 6, it took the board over two hours to hear all arguments, but in the end, members supported the city’s decision to change the zoning category for Trapeze.
Since 2008, Trapeze has billed itself as the “#1 Swingers Club in South Florida.” Located on State Road 7, the business had always been zoned as a dance hall and social club, which meant they could operate freely in the city’s mixed commercial use (MCU) zones.
When Tamarac changed its zoning codes in 2018, the “dance hall/social club” use category was eliminated. However, Trapeze was grandfathered in and could operate under the same conditions – as long as they did not try to relocate or expand.
This year, when the owners decided to move Trapeze to a new, bigger location at the former Jump A Roos at 6830 North University Drive, the city suggested they send a zoning verification request.
Attorney Russell L. Cormican, who represents Trapeze, said the business got a response from the city, stating that their zoning use designation will now change to “adult entertainment.”
“The problem is, such businesses are only permitted in MUC districts as a special exception use, which means it requires getting an approval by this board and the city commission,” said Cormican, adding that the designation also specifies how close the business can be to residential areas, playgrounds, and schools.
He said Trapeze has operated in Broward County for over 20 years and has become a South Florida institution.
“It is one of the leading clubs of its kind in the country, and people travel from all over the world to visit it,” he added, saying it is essential to familiarize the board with what Trapeze does to help them understand why the club should not be considered “adult entertainment.”
Cormican explained that Trapeze is a unique, members-only club organized as a non-profit. All guests are vetted and must pay membership and nightly user fees. About 93% of the members are couples, less than 7% are single men, and less than 1% are single women.
He added that the company does not shy away from the “swingers club” designation but wants to distance itself from the negative stereotypes and misconceptions that go along with it.
“Membership in clubs like Trapeze is not for everyone. The club is designed to serve a very small segment of the community interested in alternative sexual lifestyle,” he added, saying that the guests are affluent couples who can afford the price of hundreds of dollars in fees — a well-mannered and well-behaved crowd.
Cormican emphasized that the club is an upscale experience, not a “sleazy or unseemly sort of place,” and that in 14 years in the city, the business had no problems with code enforcement or people getting out of hand.
In 2019, although Trapeze does not sell liquor, allowing patrons to bring their own, they came under investigation for allegedly overserving a guest who later killed her two passengers in a drunken crash. In 2020, police were called after a fight.
Cormican said the company disagrees with the city’s determination on the zoning interpretation. Adult entertainment includes three categories of businesses: those selling explicit materials, presenting sexually explicit performances, or offering direct contact of intimate nature, which in his opinion, Trapeze does not do.
“The question is what box do we put Trapeze in, and we think club or lodge, private category fits the best,” he said, pointing out that the club does not offer any sexual services, shows, or materials and never are there any intimate encounters between the members and the employees.
Cormican added that special rules for adult entertainment businesses operating in the cities are justified since studies show that such places can sometimes affect the surrounding areas negatively.
Yet, in his opinion, Trapeze had “very little effect on the community” in all the years of operating in Tamarac – the exterior of the club is very plain and nondescript, so people can walk past it and not know the nature of the business, which is “done that way on purpose,” to both blend in with the community and protect the privacy of the clients.
Rob Johnson, the city’s senior planner, said Tamarac’s Land Development code definition of a private lodge or club does not include social clubs, which Trapeze considered itself.
The adult entertainment definition includes “without limitation, any place of business which advertises or conducts activities for compensation … intended to establish sexual or social communication,” so it is more appropriate in the case of Trapeze, Johnson said.
The city also consulted a Planners Dictionary by the American Planning Association, which states that an adult-use sexual encounter establishment is a business that offers a place where “two or more persons may congregate, associate or consort for the purpose of specified sexual activities or the exposure of specified anatomical areas.”
During public comments, Vanguard Village resident Felicia Fox said she is concerned that people who visit the club may come to the small park that separates the building from the residential community and use it to “further conduct their business.”
“Does a sex club belong in a residential neighborhood, and will it affect the value of our property? They are not as discreet as they think they are,” Fox said, adding that she does not mind the business being in Tamarac but objects to them “being in her front yard.”
Planning Board chair Nikole Cleare reminded her colleagues and the public they weren’t deciding whether Trapeze could do business in Tamarac but instead asked to support or deny the zoning designation.
City Attorney John Herin simplified the matter, saying the question before the board is, “what hole does the peg of Trapeze fit into? Adult entertainment category, as the city planners believe it should, or club/lodge private, as the business owners proclaim.”
Cormican followed the analogy and said the city is “trying to fit a round peg into a square hole” when it insists on calling Trapeze an adult business.
After much deliberation, the board members agreed with the city planners and voted 4-2 to deny the administrative appeal by Trapeze. The club will now have to apply for a special exception use, should they proceed with the move.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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