Neighbors to discuss proposed ‘sex-positive’ club

The new proprietors of the historic Tacony Music Hall are planning to convert the three-story office building into what they prefer to call a “sex-positive community center.” But before any of that happens, some regular neighborhood folks will meet there first.

The Tacony Civic Association will host a public meeting at the hall on Thursday night to review a zoning application that the building’s owner has filed on behalf of the newly formed Philly Music Hall LLC, an entity created to set up and oversee the operation of the members-only club. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. The hall is at Longshore Avenue and Edmund Street.

According to zoning documents being circulated by the civic association, the club must obtain a city permit that will allow it to present “live entertainment for more than 50 people” if it’s to operate legally. The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection has categorized the proposed use as a nightclub or private club. Such a use requires a special exception in a commercial zone. The proprietor must ultimately appeal to the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment for the special exception. But in accordance with the zoning code, the community gets to review the plans first.

Members of the civic association expressed uncertainty about the proposed club during their bimonthly general meeting on March 8. They wondered aloud about the nature of the sexual activity that may occur there, if alcohol would be served in the club and how it all might impact the neighborhood. They pondered if the people behind the club were the same as those who tried and failed to start an alleged after-hours “swingers” club in the former Rosewood Caterers last May.

One of Philly Music Hall’s principal organizers, Deborah Rose Hinchey, insists that her group’s effort has nothing to do with what happened at the Rosewood.

Reached by the Northeast Times last week, Hinchey said that her group is striving to create “a community center serving those who are marginalized for their sexual identities.” As a group, they refer to themselves as the “alt-sex community.” The term covers those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or transsexual, as well as those who identify as queer, intersex or asexual and those who practice non-traditional relationship styles such as those in polyamorous or open relationships.

Would people be allowed to have sex inside the Music Hall? Yes, Hinchey said. Would there be consumption of alcohol or other intoxicants on the premises? Definitely not, she said. Intoxication can undermine the group’s goal of offering members a comfortable, safe venue for sex between or among consenting adults. Nobody under 18 will be permitted.

Whether the community and the zoning board sees the Music Hall as a fit for the club will be determined later. The red-brick Victorian building has a distinguished history as a community landmark.

Completed in 1885, it sits in the original Disston Estate and as such is subject to a deed restriction banning the production or sale of alcohol on site. Originally, it served as an entertainment hall, library and community center for the “company town” populated by the employees of Henry Disston’s saw works and their families.

In 1965, the zoning approved its use as a furniture warehouse. Louis and Antoinette Iatarola bought the building in 1989 and established a real estate agency there. The building also became home to the archives of the Tacony Historical Society under the leadership of the couple’s son, Louis M. Iatarola. In 1995, the zoning board approved the opening of a child daycare on the first floor. About five years ago, the Iatarolas allowed the Tacony Community Development Corporation to set up an office there.

Last year, the Iatarolas decided it was time to sell the building. Harry Leff bought it for an undisclosed price in December. The city’s online property records do not reflect the latest sale.

According to Louis M. Iatarola, Leff and Hinchey toured the building together before the sale but didn’t go into much detail about how they planned to use it. Iatarola’s real estate office, the historical society and the CDC have moved to 6913 Tulip St. ••