Welcome to the club

For five years, neighbours could ignore the fact that an unassuming red brick house in Old Toronto was harbouring a sex club. But Ontario’s smoking laws changed this year, and Oasis Aqualounge’s customers can no longer indulge in post-coital cigarettes on the club’s private pool deck. They have to leave the building to light up, and neighbours have complained about seeing too many alfresco birthday suits.

Ten years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada legalized sex clubs, but money can’t be exchanged and the venues can’t be open to the public. So when you walk into Oasis, you first have to sign a waiver, to ensure “people understand they will see naked people, they will see people having sex, and if they’re uncomfortable with that, they shouldn’t come in…” says Richard, Oasis’s majority owner (who asked for his surname to be withheld). “From a legal standpoint, the important thing is they know they’re coming into a sex club.”

After returning inside from lighting up, Oasis customers can dance on the ground floor where pornography plays on the wall-mounted TV. They can head upstairs to play in a public dungeon, watch others through well-positioned windows or get busy themselves in a private locked room. And they’re allowed to have sex anywhere in the club except for the hot tub.

Go to your average pickup bar or nightclub, you don’t know if you might be going home with Mr. or Ms. Rapist. Since people visit sex clubs for, well, sex, the clubs are less likely to be full of belligerent Bay Street bros pounding back Jagerbombs who won’t take no for an answer. “They’re not here to drink,” says Richard. “It’s not going to help them.”

Aurora Benzion, co-owner of the Toronto sex club Wicked, hasn’t seen any cases of date rape at her club, and at both businesses, staff members are ready to intervene if there’s ever a consent issue.

“Some businesses push limits because they need to be viable,” says Richard. “We’re pushing the limits by allowing sex. So pretty much everything else is by the book. It’s a lot less risky an environment than people would think.”

Nightclub patrons, on the other hand, often pre-drink, so a security team that screens patrons at the door is key. “As soon as you let them into your establishment, they become your problem,” says Zena Nucifora, a senior underwriter at the South Western Group. But it’s essential that bouncers have their own insurance. If a security staff member starts throwing punches, the club may not avoid a lawsuit, but they can at least share the legal costs and potential payout with the security company’s insurer.

There are creative security options beyond bullnecked beefcakes barring the door, Nucifora points out.

“If you put a very nice, sexy woman at the front door, and she walks up and down the line and chats these guys up, they don’t care if they ever get in,” says Nucifora. She could chat with men waiting in line, distract them from the hour-long wait and subtly check to see if they’re already inebriated. When the men finally enter the club, “they’re calmer. They’re not stressed out thinking, ‘I’ve been waiting here forever to get in.’”

After motor vehicle accidents and being assaulted by a bouncer, the most common nightclub claim is a slip-and-fall, says Paul Clarke, national underwriting manager at Burns & Wilcox Canada. Many nightclubs have switched to all-plastic cups in order to minimize accidents.

Nucifora points out nightclubs must put together protocols for those situations. “So, you’ve got young girls wearing high, very uncomfortable shoes, and they can slip on a wet straw on the floor,” she says. “They can hurt themselves. They take their shoes off halfway through the night, and they’re dancing on the dance floor in their pantyhose or bare feet, and there’s broken glass everywhere.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Canadian Insurance Top Broker.

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