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Swingers club members say live sex act businesses help economy

(WANE Photo)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Is sex tourism important to the Fort Wayne economy? City Council will consider that and more when they discuss the future of sexually oriented businesses Tuesday night.

A few weeks ago the City of Fort Wayne introduced two ordinances to council that would shut down live sex act businesses, including the Champagne Club, Fort Wayne’s only swingers club.

Since then, hundreds of the Champagne’s members and advocates have emailed city council saying they should be left alone.

Councilman Russ Jehl has shared some of the messages.

“This club has changed my sexuality with my husband and I could not be more thankful,” one said. “This club is one of the nicest ones we have been to. When we come to the city we stay in a hotel for at least two nights. We eat out at your restaurants and spend money in the city that you would lose if this club was not available to attend.”

Another email hit similar themes.

“People come in from other cities, reserving hotel rooms and Airbnb, using Uber drivers and eating at local restaurants,” it read. “It seems like unless there are matters I’m not aware of Fort Wayne should be happy for the draw and income they bring in. If [The Champagne Club] closes, I will have no reason to continue visiting your city.”

Jehl isn’t buying this reasoning.

“It’s an ironic argument that sex tourism is a booming industry that in their opinion they should be excited about and support,” he said. “Here’s the fundamental question: should there be live group sex in a business in Fort Wayne? That answer is very simple. That answer is no. That is not in the community’s interest at large. It’s not in the public health’s interest.”

Jehl is not certain what the rest of his council thinks and has no idea how they’ll vote in the coming weeks.

“I expect it to be a very robust discussion,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anyone confident of it going one way or another.”

Fort Wayne’s attorney Carol Helton drafted the two ordinances that would regulate and license sexually oriented businesses. The first one would ban live sex act businesses such as swingers clubs. The second one being introduced would establish procedures and policies for licensing constitutionally protected sexual businesses such as strip clubs.

City council’s meeting starts Tuesday evening at 5:30 p.m. at Citizens Square.