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When Dallas vice officers raided The Club Dallas on Oct. 8 for the first time in recent memory, it made national news and gave rise to some conspiracy theories. Some said the raid was part of a city effort to shut down the gay bathhouse to make way for redevelopment around a new DART rail station, which sits directly adjacent to the 34-year-old establishment at 2616 Swiss Ave. in Deep Ellum. Others said the raid was politically motivated since it came just before a major election, as such crackdowns have historically tended to do. Still others, of course, felt it was an example of law enforcement targeting the gay community.

But the Dallas Police Department, in a rare statement issued by the vice unit several days later, said the raid was conducted in response to a complaint from a citizen. “The Dallas Police Department is charged with the duty of investigating, enforcing, and responding to citizen complaints regarding sexually oriented businesses throughout the city,” the statement read in part. “The Vice Unit is committed to being responsive to community concerns and thus, conducts its investigations in an equitable and just manner.”

Indeed, records obtained by Dallas Voice through a Freedom of Information request confirm that an unidentified person made a complaint to police about the club on Oct. 5. Three days later, on a Friday night, plainclothes vice officers purchased day memberships, rented private rooms and changed into towels. Then they went into the common areas of the business and observed patrons engaged in sex acts, according to police reports.

After uniformed officers were called in, police arrested seven patrons on charges of public lewdness and three on charges of indecent exposure. They also arrested a manager for interfering with police after he refused to let in the uniformed officers, who eventually forced open a door.

Club members and others accused the Police Department of harassment and intimidation. They also argued that raiding the gay bathhouse would only drive men looking for sex into parks and public restrooms.

The Club Dallas bailed its members out of jail and said it would provide attorneys.

Meanwhile, according to police records, the person who made the complaint called back on Oct. 13 and asked authorities to raid the business again. Despite the second complaint, vice officers haven’t returned to Club Dallas.

— John Wright

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.