Fetish, bondage group drops convention plan

Ocean City liquor laws barring activities prompt decision by Black Rose

October 07, 2003|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

An organization promoting sadism, masochism and other sexual fetishes has canceled plans for a three-day convention in Ocean City, bowing to church, community and business groups worried about the resort's family image.

Members of Black Rose decided to scrap the Nov. 14-16 convention at the Princess Royale hotel when they learned their activities might violate local liquor laws, city officials said. The group had planned, among other events, demonstrations of safe bondage techniques.

City Solicitor Guy R. Ayres III noted that nudity, whipping and other activity associated with S&M are not legal in establishments with liquor licenses in Ocean City. "This was brought to the attention of the Princess Royale, which relayed that to Black Rose," Ayres said. "Obviously, Princess Royale was concerned about its liquor license, and Black Rose wasn't aware of these restrictions."

The 340-room Princess Royale - which was booked solid as the headquarters for the convention - could have lost its liquor license for six months, said Jon B. Tremellen, general manager.

"On Saturday, we reached a mutual understanding that this just wasn't a good marriage here in Ocean City," Tremellen said. "There was not anything planned that would have been a violation, but you can't control every individual."

Opponents, who began organizing last month when word of the convention came out, took credit yesterday for forcing the Washington-based group to look elsewhere for a location. The event had been held for six years in Prince George's County without incident.

"I don't deny what people want to do on their own, but this is my home - I was embarrassed to even tell my kids what was going on," said Christine Pinnero, a resident who was planning to picket the hotel. "I just don't understand why the city just went along with this."

Susan Wright, a spokeswoman for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, said the decision showed selective enforcement of liquor laws. "This is the same small community that welcomes a convention of bikers and other groups," said Wright, a self-described sadomasochist who handles news media inquiries for affiliated groups such as Black Rose.

According to Wright, the event would have generated at least $250,000 for hotels and other beach businesses.

Tremellen declined to estimate how much the cancellation cost the hotel, but he said it has been turning away customers who sought rooms on the November weekend since May. A five-year deal for the annual convention, which Black Rose leaders had sought, would have been worth more than $1 million, he said.

"I think the intentions were good by Black Rose," Tremellen said. "They intended to keep everything inside the hotel."

The loss of business, even in a lackluster year at the resort, could turn in Ocean City's favor in the long run, said City Councilman Vince Gisriel Jr., who opposed the convention.

"The revenue loss is not the issue," Gisriel said. "I never want to infringe on anybody's constitutional rights, but the effort we make to maintain our quality of life and our family image is priceless."

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