Morals-based opposition to Deja Vu relocation is the wrong kind
Recently The Tennesseean reported the sale of Events @ 1418 on Church Street to Déjà Vu strip club, a property adjacent to Hustler Hollywood and one block east of Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, Tribe, and Play. Reacting to news of the sale, District 19 Metro Councilman Freddie O’Connell introduced an ordinance to the Metro Council seeking to block the relocation of Déjà Vu to Church Street. In response to the news of the sale, a petition was created on Change.org titled “Citizens in Support of CM O’Connell to Ban Sexually Oriented Clubs from Midtown Nashville.”
The petition reads simply, “We want to prevent the opening of a Sexually Oriented Business in our Downtown/Midtown communities. This is a fast developing and high-density area in which people live, work and play. We do not appreicate [sic] adult clubs like this around our children, businesses and day-to-day routines. This "business/club" is located close to residental [sic] neighborhoods, and churches. This kind of reputation does NOT need to be brought into our communities.”
Since posting the petition has gathered several dozen signatures, including signatures from the owners of Tribe & Play, which promoted the petition on the business Facebook pages on Friday, Aug. 12 with the message, “Friends please take a minute to add your support! We do not support strip clubs being developed in the neighborhood. Please SIGN & SHARE Thank you!” This post has since been removed from the Facebook pages.
The petition creates a moralist, fearmongering, misrepresentative argument against the relocation of Déjà Vu. Stating this “business/club” should not be located near residential neighborhoods, churches, and children is to imply the nature of Déjà Vu is something illicit and the patrons of the business are immoral and dangerous. To veteran patrons of Church Street businesses, this response may be surprising. Another strip club - Gabrielle's VIP Club - operated two blocks west of Tribe/Play (located behind Canvas, Blue Gene's, & Vibe) for many years without neighborhood outcry or online petition supported by nearby businesses until it closed late February 2016.
The assertion that strip clubs and adult businesses bring the “wrong kind of reputation” and customers to a neighborhood is the same battle cry used by opponents of LGBT bars who endorsed police raids on gay bars in the red light district on Commerce and 4th like Juanita’s and The Jungle through the 1970s, pushed against the popular gay nightspots in Berry Hill like Warehouse II and the Chute in the 80s and 90s, and raised questions on the burgeoning gay district on Church Street in the 2000s. The perception that gay clientele create a dangerous presence in the greater community has been dispelled by the continuing positive influence of bars and clubs like Tribe and Play, which also host “adult”-oriented entertainment – drag performances.
There are arguably several legitimate business reasons to oppose the opening of Déjà Vu on Church Street. Tribe/Play and Events @1418 share over 60 parking spots, the loss of which could lead to reduced parking availability for the clubs (photo below). The introduction of a strip club may create the perception Church Street is transitioning from a "gayborhood" to a centralized adult entertainment district, which runs counter to the current business atmosphere of the neighborhood. The moral opposition against Déjà Vu's relocation to Church Street stands in contrast to the important contributions of social progress Tribe & Play has accomplished as advocates for equality and fairness in Nashville.
Tribe and Play’s support of the moral opposition to the relocation of Déjà Vu should raise several questions for our community and our role in forming the “New Nashville” identity.
- How do LGBT businesses and institutions support or block economic success in our neighborhoods and in the larger Nashville community?
- What is our role as individual members of our LGBT community in shaping the conversation around what we want our spaces and neighborhoods to look like?
- How do we outwardly express the community values of inclusion and acceptance when challenged with competing moral and economic forces?
LGBT community and business leaders should engage in conversations around our crucial role in creating the “New Nashville” identity, but cannot forget or overlook the impact of social and economic discrimination as it reflects back on our values as a progressive, just, and welcoming community.