A swingers club owner is taking the city’s rejection as a direction.
“We expected to be turned down,” Chris Abram said. “I looked at a few buildings in the county today. I want to keep it away from any family oriented places. I like to be isolated. We’ll be going to the county planning now.”
Abram is the owner of the swingers club You Know Where in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The 12,000 square foot private club has rooms for socializing and rooms for sex. He said there’s a sign just inside the entrance stating “nudity nightly.”
He and Amber Amour had asked the Myrtle Beach Planning Commission to include a swingers club in areas zoned for wholesale and manufacturing so they could establish a swingers club.
“We’re not trying to do anything that isn’t already happening in the city,” he told the commission on Tuesday before the board denied his request.
Abram said there have been three different hotel parties with swinger groups in the past two weeks inside Myrtle Beach. Those parties, he said, have taken place in ballrooms that are beside other ballrooms where people were celebrating a wedding, a birthday and a bar mitzvah.
“There were children and families. We have people at the door, but doors open,” Abram said after the meeting. “I’m trying to take these parties from the public and put them in a private location.”
In its rejection to the zoning change, the planning commission cited the city’s comprehensive plan of encouraging a “family friendly beach.” The commission also said the applicant had included the “users of the establishment” in its request that would require the city’s code enforcement staff to enter the business and check membership identification cards creating an added duty for the code enforcement officers.
The swingers club request differs for other requests by the term “user.” For example, Kelly Mezzapelle of the planning department said, the city allows for restaurants in several zoning districts but the city code doesn’t regulate who uses the restaurant.
The city code does not allow for swinger clubs under any zoning classification.
The matter will be handed over to the Myrtle Beach City Council with the rejection recommendation from the planning commission.
“I understand Myrtle Beach wants a family friendly environment and atmosphere. I support that,” Abram said. “That’s why I want to take it away from the hotels. I want to take it away from the families.”
He added his North Carolina club has grown by 600-700 new members since his last meeting with the planning commission two weeks ago. He said they now have more than 28,000 members. Those members, he explained, include some single people, some in serious relationships, some married couples, doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians, truck drivers and “just about anyone else you can think of.”
Each of those members, he said, pays $10 per couple or $10 for each single person.
He said he does not advertise the club and it does not have a sign on the building. The people who come to the club actively seek out the club because they are in the swinger lifestyle, Abram said, or are curious about swinging.
When the commission asked for public comment, two men stood against the club.
“I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘Dirty Myrtle,’ right?” William Macfarlane asked the commission. “Is this something that’s going to help us rid us of that title or is it something that’s going to reinforce that title?”
The commissioners where given a package describing the swinger club, a recommendation to deny the motion from City Manger John Pedersen and three letters from city residents.
“To put this on the table for consideration is a disgrace,” a letter from Bernice A. Stone stated. “As any good mother would say, ‘You all need to go to your rooms and think about what you have done!’”
Another letter writer, Meredith Ritchie, supported the club owner’s request.
“It is not the government’s job to use personal opinions of the activities of the business to restrict their place in our city. There is nothing morally wrong with a swingers club as it invokes (sic) consenting adults. There would appear to be a blatant issue of religious influence on government decisions if the arguments are based on concepts of religious morality. This is just another new avenue to attract visitors to the area and, honestly, swingers are often older couples with disposable income,” the Ritchie letter states.
And Abram said he understands the arguments against the club and the lifestyle.
He and his wife started the club in 2005 in a 1,600 square foot home near Erwin, North Carolina; with more than a dozen couples every Saturday. He said by 2009 the numbers had grown to 50 couples every Saturday and the county zoning department forced them to shut down.
The club started in Fayetteville late in 2010 and moved to another, larger building nearby in 2011 where it is currently located.
Through it all, Abram said, some have made arguments about the members and some have made arguments about their choices.
“The morality side that would be a better argument because I understand that. I grew up in a Christian household as well. I understand that part of it a lot better than saying we’re uneducated,” he said after the meeting. “It goes against the way I was brought up too.”