A candidate to become the Mayor of Washington is campaigning to block adult gay entertainment businesses from his ward prompting petitions from activists.
Vincent Orange, who currently serves on the District’s Council, is expected to replace them with a new Major League Baseball stadium in ward 5.
Talk of a relocation of the gay businesses in Ward 5 has become a big issue in the multi-candidate contest for the Ward 5 Council seat that he must give up to run for mayor.
All candidates for the seat are said to oppose the gay entertainment businesses to move into the ward because of the adult nature of the clubs, not because of the clubs’ gay clientele.
Club owners have been looking at Ward 5 for possible relocation sites because the ward is home to most of the city’s industrial and warehouse zones. Representatives have said they prefer to move into an industrial or warehouse area to avoid infringing upon residential communities. But they recently discovered that current city zoning regulations prevent them from moving anywhere other than the downtown business district, which is seen as too expensive and too near to residential areas.
Owners and supporters in the gay community have started a petition to change the zoning laws to combat this. Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham, has joined gay activists in calling on the Zoning Commission to make the necessary changes to allow the gay clubs to move into other warehouse or industrial districts.
Current D.C. Mayor Anthony has said he supports efforts to relocate the gay clubs, and he has directed the city’s property management office to help the club owners in their search.
Rick Rosendall, spokesperson for the Gay Lesbian Activists Alliance said Mr Orange appeared to be using the gay businesses as an election campaign ploy to stir up interest in his race for mayor. He criticised Mr Orange’s attempt to block the businesses from moving anywhere in Ward 5, even in areas far from residential communities.
“It’s very sleazy for him to pull this at this time,” said Mr Rosendall. “He is aware that his ward has more industrial areas than any other ward. He is being unreasonable.”
The five candidates running for mayor expressed general support for allowing the displaced gay businesses to move. But the candidates expressed their views last year, before news surfaced about the need to change local zoning laws.
Mr Orange made his position known at a Ward 5 community meeting to promote opposition to allowing the gay businesses to move into his ward. He said adult gay businesses would interfere with the type of economic development that he and other community leaders are promoting in the ward.
He expressed strong opposition to calls from gay D.C. Council Member Jim Graham for easing liquor law restrictions to enable some of the businesses to move to new locations.
Ward 5 Advisory Neighbourhood Commissioner Kathy Henderson said the Ward 5 opposition to the businesses was not based on anti-gay prejudice, “I would be opposed to this type of business regardless of the type of customers it caters to.”
Opposition surfaced last month after Mr Orange discovered that gay business owner Bob Siegel planned to buy a vacant warehouse in the ward and intended to invite one or more of the gay clubs to move there.