It didn’t take long for word to spread about the possible opening this month of a “swingers/sex club” in the Rosewood Caterers building in Upper Holmesburg.
Flyers warning residents “Urgent: Community Action is Needed A.S.A.P.” began circulating late last month. On March 24, someone posted a photo of the flier on a neighborhood Facebook page and, by local standards at least, it soon went viral with dozens of comments and shares. The following Sunday, a priest at St. Dominic’s Church mentioned it to parishioners after Mass, urging them to call their elected officials to oppose the club’s opening.
On Feb. 1, City Councilman Bobby Henon announced — again via Facebook — that the operator of the new Saints & Sinners club at 8832 Frankford Ave. has agreed to postpone the facility’s planned April 16 grand opening party in order to address the community’s concerns at the next Upper Holmesburg Civic Association meeting on April 21 at St. Dominic’s Marian Hall, 8532 Frankford Ave. The start time is 7 p.m.
In his statement, Henon said that he was aware the longtime catering hall was under new management, but the new owner misrepresented to him what type of business he was going to run.
“Nearly two months ago, I spoke with the man who purchased The Rosewood building. He told me that he intended to keep this facility a catering hall,” Henon wrote. “He said it would host special events, parties and ballroom dancing. Late last week, I learned that The Rosewood is actually being advertised as a swingers’ club. I am frustrated that the new owner wasn’t truthful. And I am angry that the community wasn’t notified or included.”
City property records show that an entity called Rosewood Inn Caterers LLC bought 8832 Frankford Ave. for $850,000 on Jan. 25. The 13,000-square-foot hall sits on 1.2 acres and has a market value of $2.4 million according to the city tax appraisal. It remains unclear if the Saints & Sinners operator owns or leases the property. According to the business’ website, the Frankford Avenue location would be its third. The business also operates in Atlantic City and Port Richmond.
The Northeast Times attempted to reach the operator via a telephone number posted on the website. An unidentified person who answered the phone offered to deliver a reporter’s message to a club representative, but no one replied to the request for comment.
Although the company website doesn’t mention the specific location of the proposed club, it describes in detail what type of clientele it hopes to attract to all of its venues.
“If you are seeking the best swingers’ club, Atlantic City, NJ and Philadelphia PA has everything you are looking for,” the homepage states.
“It doesn’t matter if you are new to the scene or if you are a veteran, with Saints and Sinners you will be sure to have the time of your life!
“Don’t miss out on visiting Atlantic City, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s best and most well-known Adult Playground!”
Memberships are sold on an annual basis and range from $15 for single women to $50 for couples and $100 for single men. The site also promotes a “one night membership” of $20, although additional cover charges are applicable to members for individual parties. The Port Richmond location, at 2533 Emery St., is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. or 5 a.m., depending on the day.
The new “Northeast” location will have Saturday hours from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., the website states. Its amenities purportedly include “large open play rooms,” “semi-private play rooms,” “VIP playrooms,” a game room, TVs, dance floors, a locker room, multiple bars and stripper poles. Alcohol is to be BYOB, but the club will provide mixers.
Among various theme parties at its other locations, the website has been promoting a “Grand Opening and Tom’s 71st Birthday Celebration” for April 16 at the Northeast location. Unlike other events, single men were not invited to attend. For the convenience of out-of-town patrons, the operator booked a block of rooms at a hotel in Bucks County. The website also encouraged patrons to make use of nearby businesses including gas stations, fast food restaurants, a liquor store and “a 24-hour diner,” presumably the Dining Car.
According to Henon, Saints & Sinners has run into trouble with the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection, in addition to many in the local community. L&I has issued several violations to the operator for failing to obtain permits before renovating the place. There is little or no change to the external appearance of the hall, which is partially obscured from Frankford Avenue by a Walgreens store.
“There is a procedure for a club/business/facility to open, permits and clearances by L&I among them,” Henon wrote. “We are looking at what has been done so far and what needs to be done.”
On March 21, L&I reportedly issued four violations, followed by a work stoppage order last week. Henon said that he has asked representatives from L&I and from the 8th Police District to attend the April 21 Upper Holmesburg Civic meeting. The public is also invited to attend.
“The members of the community have to come out and have their voices heard on this issue. We need business owners, community group members and neighbors to ask questions and share their concerns about this kind of private adult club setting up shop in our neighborhood,” Henon said. ••