Local bathhouse agrees to close in April
City has been targeting 2200 Club for quite some time, general manager says
Published Thursday, 04-Jan-2007 in issue 993
The 2200 Club has negotiated with the city of San Diego and agreed to voluntarily cease operation on April 30, according to the bathhouse’s general manager, Charlie Sharples.
The sauna and steam club for men has been operating at its location at 2200 University Ave. in North Park for more than two years. Bob Smith and John Tennis Smith purchased the business in 2004.
Sharples, 2200 Club’s general manager for the last year and a half, said the decision to close in April was “strictly a business decision” and that the city has been targeting their business for quite some time.
“They were going to continue to harass us in different ways,” he said. “They were going to send undercover agents in and so forth and then bring criminal charges if they found anyone having sex.”
According to Sharples, about a third of all 2200 Club patrons “lead heterosexual lives.”
“They’re married and have wives and children,” he said. “Those people get scared when they read in the paper something involving the police.”
Sharples said the only violation undercover police officers found was that 2200 Club allowed more than one person to occupy a private room.
“[The City Attorney’s Office was] going to just keep going after us,” he said. “Their intention was to close the club. So they announced they were going to bring criminal charges [and] they were going to send undercover agents in, so we decided the club wasn’t making enough money. It was a business decision.”
Sharples said the club will continue to operate with their required current health permit and with the complete cooperation and approval of the city and county governments until it closes in April.
Deputy City Attorney Brian Ziegler said he could not comment about the negotiations with 2200 Club on its upcoming closure until the case is officially filed and made public record.
“We’ve been in the process of actively prosecuting this property for violations of the San Diego municipal code criminally, and we’re in the process of filing a civil complaint for red-light abatement action against the property for sexual activity that’s going on at the property,” he said.
2200 Club pleaded guilty last year on April 12 to a misdemeanor charge for not having a bathhouse permit issued by the county department of health and was placed on three years probation. All charges against the bathhouse’s owner, the building owner and two others were dismissed by a Superior Court judge.
2200 Club obtained the required permit, paid a $1,200 fine, reimbursed the city $538 in costs and agreed to the terms of probation, including an agreement to rent rooms to single occupants only and to oust anyone using illegal drugs.
2200 Club was also required to have a local health center set up a table weekly in the large TV lounge area to provide health care education, counseling and free HIV testing. North Park Family Health Center was listed in court records as the agency appointed to provide these services.
According to California Penal Code, Ziegler said, any bathhouse where sexual activity takes place may be enjoined from operating. He said due to previous undercover operations, the police have documented that sexual activity is occurring at 2200 Club.
2200 Club returned to court on Sept. 6 for violating the terms of its probation. After hearing testimony and arguments for about four and a half hours, San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Smyth revoked and later reinstated 2200 Club’s probation for renting a single-occupancy room to two undercover officers, but turned down a request by the City Attorney’s Office to shut down the North Park bathhouse. The only probation condition Smyth found to be violated was the single-room occupancy code. At a Sept. 13 follow-up hearing, attorney John Barriage, who represents the bathhouse, said Club co-owner John Tennis Smith accepted the terms, probation was reinstated and the 2200 Club was fined $1,100.
The location has operated as a bathhouse primarily frequented by gay and bisexual men since 1985. 2200 Club originally opened at the old Mustang Spa site at 2200 University Ave. on Dec. 19, 2004. The building is owned by Alma Vasic, who also owns F Street Corporation.
Bob Smith and John Tennis Smith previously owned Choices nightclub and CCBC gay resort hotel in Cathedral