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Adult club sparking concern in Mason

Dec. 31, 2009 @ 12:00 AM

GALLIPOLIS FERRY, W.Va. -- A Mason County commissioner wants to investigate whether an adult social club that bills itself as a place where couples and singles can lead sensual lifestyles is operating legally.

Commissioner Rick Handley said he became aware of the Riverside Club along W.Va. 2 in Gallipolis Ferry earlier this week. Although he objects to the club on moral grounds after reading what it offers on its Web site, he said he's not sure whether the club has broken any laws.

"Even if it's not illegal, I'm really saddened by the fact that someone wants to come into Mason County and do this," Handley said. "We're a laid-back, rural community, and we don't need any riffraffs from outside the county coming in and giving us a bad name."

According to the Riverside Club's Web site, it is a members-only club that is a safe haven for open-minded adults.

"If you are looking to meet friendly, fun couples and singles who like to flirt, play and party, then you've come to the right place," the site says. "We get super people together in a fun, private social atmosphere and let them explore at their own pace."

The club prohibits drugs, prostitution, recording devices and people under the age of 21 from entering, according to a list of rules on the Web site. The club does not serve alcohol, but members are allowed to bring their own.

"At club functions and activities and while at the club, everyone is to be treated with respect and dignity," the site says. "A 'no' means no."

Events at the club for the month of December included a leather-and-lace fetish night, pajama and lingerie night and a "Santa HO HO Party."

The Web site also included a pricing list that asks for membership and event donations, not fees. However, the site says you must be a member to enter the club.

Although the Web site never uses the term, Handley said it's obvious the establishment is a swingers club and, in his opinion, borders on prostitution.

"Their rules say there is no prostitution allowed, yet you are paying money to get into the club so you can have sex with people," Handley said. "To me, that's prostitution in another sense, I reckon."

A woman who answered the phone at the Riverside Club and declined to give her name said it's nothing more than a private residence and isn't considered a business because it only collects donations.

Any organization that collects monetary donations, fees or dues is required to have a business registration certificate, said Kimberly Osborne, spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue. There is no record of the Riverside Club having a business registration certificate, she said.

The Secretary of State's Office also has no record of the Riverside Club as a corporation or as a trade name for another entity, spokesman Jake Glance said.

Handley said Mason County officials are looking for more information about the club as well. The county commission already has requested that the Mason County Assessor's Office reassess the club property, he said. It's likely that physical improvements have been made to the property since it became a club, he said.

"We're not singling out this place," Handley said. "It's the same we would do for any structure that has undergone improvements."

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