Eleven people were arrested at Club Dallas on Friday night, Oct. 8, when vice officers raided the gay-oriented gym in response to a complaint, according to Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer.
Martin said 10 of those arrested were charged with public lewdness — or sexual activity in public — while one was charged with interfering with police. The person charged with interfering with police reportedly was a Club Dallas employee who didn’t immediately comply with officers. Martin said she believes it was the first vice operation at Club Dallas —commonly known as a gay “bathhouse” — since 2003.
“We’ve done operations in that club since the late ’70s. There just hasn’t been one in a while because there hasn’t been a complaint,” Martin said. “They [officers] were in there for a legitimate reason, and obviously there was illegal activity going on or that many arrests wouldn’t have been made. It just happened that no one complained in a few years, so they haven’t been in there in a few years.”
The manager of Club Dallas, on Swiss Avenue in Deep Ellum, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment, but Martin said she feels the vice operation was justified and conducted appropriately.
“I’ve certainly never been there, but I’ve heard that public lewdness does go on in the club,” she added. “All you have to do is keep your ears open.”
Though they may seem private, the confines of businesses such as Club Dallas are considered public places under Texas’ public lewdness statute.
Martin said police won’t reveal the source of the complaint, but she said it was “most likely a former member who thought they didn’t get what they paid for.” However, she said it’s also possible that the complaint was made by another business owner in the area, which is undergoing redevelopment thanks to DART’s new rail line.
“When somebody complains we have to go in, just like when someone calls 911 we have to go to the call,” Martin said. “Now that so much activity was found there, they can probably expect more vice operations there.”
One Club Dallas member who witnessed the vice operation but was not arrested said officers were rude and unprofessional during the operation. He also said he feels the club is being targeted by the city to make way for the redevelopment.
The member, who asked not to be identified, said he was working out when he went around the corner to get a drink of water and was confronted by an officer. He said he was forced to remain seated throughout the operation.
“He said, ‘You sit down there and you don’t move,’” the member said. “I tried to ask him what’s this about, and he said, ‘You just chill out.’ They detained us when we were just working out, which I thought was strange.”
The member said about a dozen officers participated in the raid, which began at 9:30 p.m. and lasted until 10:15 p.m.
The officers came in carrying plastic flexcuffs and seemed to be trying to intimidate patrons, the member said.
At one point the member said he heard one of the officers remark that, “I’m going to have nightmares forever after this,” a reference to the fact that it was a gay-oriented business.
The member said he was also at Club Dallas the following night when the fire marshal paid a visit.
“There’s real crime going on in the city, and they don’t need to be harassing a private club,” he said. “I’m irritated and I’m frustrated because I feel like the police department is targeting them, and I don’t appreciate being talked to like that, being detained.”
Public lewdness is a class-A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.