VANCOUVER, BC – If the owner of the Fox Theatre will take steps to curb illegal and indecent activity inside its walls, Vancouver’s last remaining adult cinema may remain open, city councillors decided May 13.
The 35-year-old theater, owned for the past 11 years by Xiaohua “Lisa” Huang, was threatened with revocation of its business license after undercover officers discovered patrons smoking and masturbating in the auditorium.
Officers also accused Huang of selling cigarettes and condoms without a license in the lobby. Taken together, the accusations encouraged city officials to embark upon a licensing hearing on the grounds the theater was causing harm to the surrounding neighborhood.
To keep her business alive, Huang agreed to check the premises for illegal activity once every half hour. Staff must keep a log of each check and any action taken as a result.
The licensing hearing was the second within 60 days. On March 24 — following Huang’s alleged failure to heed a warning issued last fall — city fathers met to consider previous police complaints, but decided most were not serious enough to warrant closure of the theater. However, police kept a wary eye on the place after that, and an April 10 report documented additional irregularities during an hour-long visit by plainclothes officers who did not identify themselves to management or staff. One of the officers reported being able to buy a condom after “pressuring” Huang in the lobby. Another reported viewing three men masturbating and finding the security door between the auditorium and a rear alley unlocked.
Other businesses in the neighborhood told The Vancouver Courier that the Fox had been a good corporate neighbor until the city’s only other adult cinema closed last year. After that, according to the owner of the upscale clothing boutique next door to the Fox, patrons and residents began tripping over needles and stopping sex acts in the alley behind the businesses. Once, a sex worker even stripped and changed clothes in the boutique’s doorway in broad daylight, owner Veronika Baspaly told The Courier.
However, she added, the situation improved following the March licensing hearing.
“I don’t know what is happening in and around the theatre now, which is fantastic,” she told The Courier. “As long as nothing bad is spilling out onto the street, there’s absolutely nothing for us to be worried about.”
Despite retaining its license, the theater may not last long. Huang owns the business but leases the property, and her lease is up in July 2010.