Holmesburg residents fight advertised swingers club in their neighborhood

Untitled-1313
When word leaked out that the newest addition to the swinging scene would be housed in a former catering hall in a strip mall along Frankford Avenue in Holmesburg, residents, the local neighborhood association, and the district councilman became concerned.

The flashy website for Saints & Sinners swingers club boasts that its new location in Northeast Philadelphia will have "stripper poles," and open, semiprivate, and private "play rooms." It also invites all to its grand opening on April 16, but it does not disclose the location.

But when word leaked out that the newest addition to the swinging scene would be housed in a former catering hall in a strip mall along Frankford Avenue in Holmesburg, residents, the local neighborhood association, and the district councilman became concerned.

For now, the planned April 16 event has been canceled, according to Councilman Bobby Henon, who said he talked to club owner Tom Sherwood on Friday and was assured that nothing would be done until residents are consulted.

"He said again it is not going to be a venue for adult swingers," Henon said.

Almost immediately, however, Henon added a skeptical note: "Time will tell," he said.

Residents will be able to directly address Sherwood, a businessman who owns Saints & Sinners clubs in Port Richmond and in Atlantic City, this month. Henon said the developer has agreed to postpone the grand opening and attend the April 21 meeting of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association.

Henon added that when he talked to Sherwood two months ago, he was assured that there were no plans to convert the old Rosewood Caterers at 8832 Frankford Ave., which Sherwood bought in January, into the latest Saints & Sinners location.

Henon said Sherwood told him that the building would instead be used for "ballroom dancing" and "catered events."

Sherwood could not be reached for comment Friday.

Meanwhile, work has been going on inside Rosewood Caterers that some fear would convert the catering hall into a swingers club with stripper poles, and open, private, and semiprivate rooms.

Henon said he's been told that the workers have confided that they're building a swingers club.

That work, for now, has come to a halt.

Karen Guss, a spokeswoman for L&I, said work was being done inside the property without the appropriate permits.

"At least four violations" for "fairly extensive work" were issued on March 21, Guss said, and on Wednesday L&I ordered work to stop.

Stan Cywinski, president of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association, said a swingers club would not be welcomed in the neighborhood. His group would fight such an effort.

"At this point, it's a matter of zoning and permits," he said. "If that doesn't work, we'll have to come up with a 'Plan B.' "

The Saints & Sinners club on Emery Street near the I-95 overpass in Port Richmond is only open on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights - and only to members. Yearly membership goes for $50 for a couple, $100 for a single male, and $15 for a single female.

Upcoming events include a "Leather & Lace" night on April 8, and a "Ladies in Men's Shirts Night!" on April 23.

Henon said he doesn't think parties like these will help the neighborhood. He said a swingers club would deter businesses from moving into the nearby retail space and negatively impact community members.

"There's a diner [there]," Henon said. "There's a GameStop where kids go to buy their games and electronics."

Even without the moral concern, Henon said Sherwood and Saints & Sinners have to be made aware of the legal ramifications of their actions.

"They are legally responsible to abide by the law and its codes," he said. "And they have not."

"They're not starting out well," the councilman added.

JTomczuk@phillynews.com@JackTomczuk