D.C. Law May Cause Close of Gay Adult Businesses

Kat Khan
WASHINGTON — Various gay adult businesses are slated to be pushed out of a six-block radius in Washington, D.C., by a new baseball stadium – but they may not be allowed to move to another part of town, due to a little-noticed provision in a 2001 city law regulating the zoning for adult entertainment businesses.

The law, introduced by Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose, was intended to lift a restriction that barred such establishments from moving to a different location. However, one of its provisions appears to prevent such businesses from moving outside the zone of its current location.

"As I have been saying for nearly a year, the law needs to be changed to allow gay businesses to move to another part of the city," gay activist Frank Kameny said.

Due to the efforts of Kameny and other activists, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams postponed the vote on the stadium lease after it became clear that a majority of the D.C. Council would vote against it.

Williams already has invoked the city's eminent domain law to evict the clubs from their O Street location as early as Feb. 1, though that date may be postponed if the council refuses to approve the stadium lease by Jan. 2.

"As far as I'm concerned, they can delay it as long as they want," Cliff Witt, a manager at the gay bar Secrets, said. "I hope they delay it to death."

Secrets is one of six gay businesses that have operated in the O Street area for more than 20 years, in what Kameny and other activists have referred to as a unique "gay" entertainment district. Gay businesses located in the area include two nightclubs, a bathhouse, an adult movie theater and an adult video arcade.