sex_workers_0527Straight Up with Meghan McCabe

The adult business in this city hovers under the radar, to the point many can’t identify the corners where ladies and gentlemen of the night wait, nor the adult massage parlours tucked away in quiet neighbourhoods. That is, until Kendra’s Red House on Wood Street was singled out.

The owner, known as Kendra, says she and her staff decided to open their own place last year, when a similar establishment closed its doors and left them without jobs, because there is a security and dignity in working together.

But late February, city councilor Jonathan Galgay brought the concerns of Wood St. residents to council, calling for the City to examine how it treats adult massage parlours. The all-male council complied, putting a moratorium on permits for any such business. And that’s where the firestorm started: some people’s sensitivities versus other people’s freedom and safety erupted. “My intent has been quite clear, I want to ensure that new applications are assessed based on a new definition for ‘adult massage parlours,’ and that any such business be restricted from operating in residential neighbourhoods,” says Galgay. “I do not intend to insert myself into a moral or ethical debate on this topic.”

Kendra says relegating businesses like theirs to one area may be an option, if it’s enforced for everyone. “There are several others that operate in residential/commercial areas, and no one seems to be complaining about those.”

The councillor has a duty to represent his constituents, and Galgay has described their concerns as everything from harassment, patrons mistaking neighbouring houses for the unmarked establishment, noise, coming and going at all hours, parking issues, and a child left unattended in a car parked outside the building in question – the last of which Galgay says he brought to the police. However, the building in question previously operated as a bed and breakfast, which also had visitors coming and going at all hours, two strip clubs (The Piccadilly followed by Crazy Horse) operated for years directly across the street, and Duckworth St. bustles all day long.

Kendra notes her business follows the same hours as nearby Caine’s Convenience – between 10 am and midnight. As far as complaints go, Kendra says they got one noise complaint since the business opened in April 2014, from a neighbour who asked them to turn down music. “If any complaints are being lodged, it is not being communicated to us in any fashion.”

And she’s concerned about what a crack down on adult businesses like hers – a safe environment with security cameras, staff, and protection from the worries of assault, robbery, or drugs – would mean for people who work in the industry. “Although we are not a ‘full service’ establishment, we do provide services of somewhat the same nature, and some women and men may feel that they have no other option but to work independently if we have to close down. Forcing people to work alone separates them more from society, and makes them feel like they are not deserving of the respect and dignity that should be afforded to all humans.”

As for complaints, RNC Const. Steven Curnew says they have nothing in the system pertaining to that address on Wood St., but if officers didn’t find a child unattended in a vehicle, it wouldn’t come up. He also points out there’s nothing criminal about Kendra’s Red House, it’s just a matter of city permitting. A matter Kendra and many others hope is treated rationally, with respect for the safety and well-being of everyone involved.