Business or Pleasure? Swing Club Showdown

For a group of Florida residents, there's a limit to the old dictum "Love thy neighbor."

The hot and bothered neighbors of the swinging Hunt Club in Melbourne, Fla., protested last Friday's "Naughty Secretary, Teacher or Schoolgirl" party, and the cops have sent two undercover investigators inside to see for themselves.

Undaunted, the club intends to go ahead with its "Naughty Girls, Ice Cream and High Heels Social" on Friday.

The Hunt Club's indignant neighbors say that at the very least the club is in violation of the area's zoning code, which is residential, not commercial.

But Hunt Club operators argue that the "private" group does not cost members a thing — though donations are welcome — and thereby is nothing more than a place for like-minded people to share their "alternative lifestyle in a safe, secure environment where they can be themselves," according to the description on The Hunt Club Web site.

Undercover Police Probe Club

The Melbourne Police Department arranged for two officers, one male and one female, to go undercover, sign up for a Friday night event and see if anything illegal was going on.

"We sent in a couple of undercover officers and pretty much, they took the tour of the establishment," Commander Ron Bell of the Melbourne police told ABC News. "The officers noticed there was a stripper pole, some type of sex swing chair and they learned that one of the bedrooms was being used as a viewing area."

"But," Bell continued, "there was nothing illegal taking place at the time when the officers were there."

Hunt Club neighbors remained determined and on Friday night when swingers began arriving for the "Naughty Secretary, Teacher or Schoolgirl" event, they were met by a small group of protestors and a large sign reading "The Hunt Club Not Wanted Here."

Melbourne Police Chief Don Carey, who has publicly said he believes that there's something illegal about the operation, met with disgruntled residents Monday.

Paul Gougelman, city attorney in Melbourne, said that the zoning department was also investigating The Hunt Club to see if there is a zoning code violation.

Gougleman said he wasn't yet certain the city had a case, but he said he suspects they might.

"It's like your house is a residential zoning district and someone builds a steel mill next door, wouldn't you think it was against zoning regulations?" he asked. "I don't mean to be a smart aleck, but that's essentially what's happening."

Hunt Club Operators Deny Wrongdoing

Richard Spalding, one of the operators of The Hunt Club, denied to ABC News by e-mail that the Hunt Club was a business "because we simply don't charge anyone for anything! We like hosting private parties in our home for our friends both old and new."

Spalding acknowledged that he and his partner hope to use "donations" to the club to build a bigger place outside the city — a model that swingers clubs in other parts of the country have used. Asked if they pay taxes on those donations, Spalding explained that the money received goes "toward the cost of the parties."

Spalding did not feel like their privacy was violated when the officers arrived undercover at the rented house on Bath Street to scope the party. In fact, he wrote, officers have attended events in the past when they are off-duty.

"This is really all contingent on how you define business," James Pancake, a neighbor and Hunt Club opponent, told ABC News. Pancake said his fellow opponents recognize that there may not be anything they can do to stop the The Hunt Club from operating.

He called the neighborhood "a naive community" that learned about the swinger's club through "a little old lady" sharing gossip.

Pancake acknowledged that "community values" are important in the neighborhood, but denied suggestions that staunch Christian beliefs were propelling the protestor's opposition.

Spalding, the club's co-operator, wrote in an e-mail that most neighbors have been supportive, and he shrugged off the objections of the club's opponents.

"As to their motivations," Spalding wrote, "I won't even begin to comment on them except to say that they appear to be based upon fear and ignorance due to the fact that they have never even asked us what our lifestyle is all about."

'Pink Cauldron' Hot Tub, Other Amenities

The Hunt Club of Brevard County Web site, which Pancake claims has been substantially tamed down since the controversy began to brew, describes some of that lifestyle.

The house boasts secure parking, friendly people, buffet dining, a pool table, a swimming pool and "The Pink Cauldron," a five-person hot tub that "can get really, really hot." Condoms are provided, and there are rules and etiquette laid out, as well as a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

"Becoming a member is easy," one answer reads. "Simply either call before a gathering," the operators instruct, "or make an online reservation." Private rooms are available, but only in 60-minute blocks.

For now, Friday night's kinky ice cream social is on as planned. All the publicity has actually prompted even greater interest than normal. But the club's operators are offering a warning to their swinging guests.

"While we want you all to come we also want you to know up front that we do expect to have a few protesters outside and possibly news crews filming them," they warn.

That scrutiny, however, will stop at the door.

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