Tacony sex-positive community center will proceed without zoning relief

On Wednesday the sex-positive community center proposed for the Tacony Music Hall was slated to go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). Instead it asked for a continuance, pushing the case back to May.

Representatives of the Tacony Civic Association were in attendance at the hearing and muttered darkly about what the club’s owners might be up to. They told PlanPhilly that the neighborhood vote came down 88-to-31 against the proposal discussed at a community meeting, where Deborah Rose Hinchey explained her organization’s mission to the community.

PlanPhilly learned Friday that there will not be an opportunity for aggrieved neighborhood residents to air their concerns before the ZBA, because the Philly Music Hall—as the new club is named—will be withdrawing its request for a special exception and instead opt to operate by right.

The special exception the Philly Music Hall sought would have allowed it to offer “live entertainment for more than 50 people.” Private club status was also sought. But Hinchey noted at the community meeting that it was within the organization’s rights to operate by right if capacity is kept below 50 people per floor.

That’s exactly what the Philly Music Hall says it will do: On Thursday, it received its zoning permit to function as a fraternal organization on the second and third floors of the historic Tacony Music Hall building. (The first floor is currently occupied by a daycare, the owner of which spoke at the community meeting in favor of Hinchey’s proposal.)

The Philadelphia code defines a fraternal organization as a not-for-profit “that restricts access to its facility to bona fide, annual dues-paying members and their occasional guests.”

That definition fits the Philly Music Hall, which currently has less than 30 members. At the community meeting Hinchey explained the organization’s vetting process, which she described as tightly regulated, demanding that two members recommend a new applicant. The annual fee ranges between $50 and $150.

The Philly Music Hall will offer its members a variety of activities, ranging from game nights and movie screenings to co-working spaces to weekend evening parties catering to alternative sexual communities. At the community meeting, Hinchey would not promise that sex between consenting adults will be banned from the site.

There is, however, a ban on alcohol and all other intoxicating substances. Inebriated people will not be allowed admittance either.  

Hinchey declined an interview request, but sent PlanPhilly a statement confirming that the group had withdrawn its zoning application.  

“Our organization has decided to seek zoning and an organizational structure that more accurately reflects our mission and values,” the statement reads. “We are in the process of filing to re-incorporate as a 501(c)(7) non-profit social club…This shift to nonprofit status does not change our mission, membership structure, or operations.”

Tacony Civic Association did not return a request from PlanPhilly for comment on Friday. (We will update the story if and when it does.)

“Although our organization will now be more exclusive in its nature, the Philly Music Hall plans to continue to engage with local civic groups about the best ways be an upstanding neighbor to the surrounding community,” Hinchey’ statement concludes. “We look forward to an ongoing dialogue.”

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