Sex club causes controversy
February 23, 2010 2:14 PM
Amid the hustle and bustle of the Tenderloin, where storefronts seem to open and close without notice, a uniquely San Francisco business is attempting to re-make a name for itself. The Power Exchange, an "adult play space" catering to any and all of a patron's sexual fantasies, opened last Thursday, to differing reactions.
The location at 220 Jones St. has been in the adult entertainment industry since the 1950s, serving as both a gay theater and most recently, the Pink Diamonds strip club. Across the street is the Boys and Girls Club, and next door is the San Francisco City Academy, along with various cafes and the Providence Community Church within a few blocks.
In an area with a high concentration of families as well as liquor stores, it seems as though the Power Exchange will be a fitting, if not welcome, addition in the eyes of its neighbors.
"The irrational comments of children being harmed are just that- irrational," said Terrance Alan, owner of the building for over 15 years. "The activity is confined to the interior, and no children allowed." This was his response to the comments from Marie-France Ladine, director at the San Francisco City Academy, made in last week's Chronicle, against the club opening.
"The outside will have nothing else but the appearance of a normal business," said Alan, who has been a friend and business partner of Power Exchange owner Michael Powers for years. "It won't give any indication of the nature of the business."
While Alan and Powers are optimistic about their endeavor, there has been concern from some that it may not be suitable for the neighborhood.
"The overall issue of such clubs is that we have such an abundance of children in such a saturated area," said pastor Eric Gabourel of Providence Community Church, located down the street from the Power Exchange. "It would be more understandable if it was on Broadway or Market, but here there are lots of families that cant afford to live anywhere else."
Gabourel doesn't think it's fair that the sex club is opening in his neighborhood when other areas in the city don't have such businesses.
"I don't see these businesses in Pacific Heights, so I don't think they should be here either," said Gabourel. "But then again, I think there are much bigger issues to protest."
The Power Exchange first began 13 years ago, when owner Michael Powers opened the first location on Otis Street in SoMa. He used the money from that club to open another in Las Vegas, but for the last few years has been trying to find the perfect home for his distinctive club.
He closed the SoMa location a few years ago to harbor all his energy into the Vegas establishment, though Powers' ultimate goal is to "make Power Exchange a household name."
Upon returning to the city, he attempted to open at 44 Gouph street in November 2008, though zoning permits required he close his doors in March of the next year. Until May, he tried to acquire the appropriate permits, but instead found room at 34 Mason, in an old club. Once again, the building was not up to code, and since May of 2009, Powers and his team had been searching for another venue.
Just a few months ago, he ran into Alan, and their conversation led to the Pink Diamonds closing, and that Alan had room for a new club. Alan said he would welcome, the Power Exchange on Jones street.
"Michael is a good community member and has operated a business that doesn't have high impacts on the neighborhood," Alan said. "I wanted someone who had a long history of being in the adult entertainment industry."
Powers, who ran for Mayor of San Francisco in 2007, refers to the club as a "glorified day care center." The club itself is the only in the nation that caters to every sexual persuasion, offering a drug and alcohol-free space for singles and couples to act out their fantasies and fetishes in a safe environment and always with the use of protection.
"I've been in this business for 13 years, and have yet to raise a flag," Powers said. "The police don't even know who I am. Anybody having somebody get shot within 30 feet of a police station has a serious problem with their clientele," he said, referring to the fatal shootings in front of Pink Diamonds late last year.
Since running into each other a few months ago and offering his lease to Powers, Alan has been working to make sure everything runs smoothly.
"All processes are long to ensure guaranteed public safety in a public assembly space, and most concerns are with the safety and structure of the building, especially fire codes," Alan said. "I have been careful in making sure Michael has a lot of experience, and none of the problems that plagued the Pink Diamonds."
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