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Looking Back in SGN History: Attempted raid — Cops bust two at Tubs

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The front page of Volume 5, Issue 16  


Dive into the archives of the SGN at https://issuu.com/sgn.org

For customers of the Zodiac Social Club, last Tuesday was an ordinary low-price night at Seattle's newest Gay bathhouse. But the staff of the private club was involved in an uncomfortable confrontation with Seattle police that they feel is part of the chronic election-time harassment of Gay people.

At about 10 p.m. last Tuesday, two SPD officers appeared at the door of the Zodiac and requested admission. One of the officers, T. Moffat, is a woman. Jim Barnett, co-owner of the men-only establishment, refused to let the police officers in.

"This is a private club," said Barnett. "We're not open to the public. We have the same legal sanctity as a private home. We stood by that... Our primary concern is the protection of our 3,000 members."

According to Barnett, Officer Moffat had tried to enter the Zodiac before. On July 31, he said, two beat cops saw an open doorway and wanted to know what was inside. "We refused them admittance. One was female ... They called their sergeant; the sergeant said we were within our rights."

This time Barnett did not get off so easily.

The officers threatened Barnett with arrest, he said, if he did not let them into the Zodiac. "I said I'd gladly step outside and be arrested," he went on. "Then they had me in the car for a half an hour or so while they got reinforcements. ... One officer kept urging the other to kick down the door. They arrested me and frisked me. With 10 other men around, [Officer Moffat] frisked me. I was mortally embarrassed."

Barnett said the officers held him handcuffed in the police car for another 45 minutes before they finally let him go. When he was released, he and employee Jonathan Black were issued citations for having "refused to allow a public officer to inspect the books and/or premises.

According to Assistant City Attorney Sue Sampson, the ordinance under which citations were issued to Barnett and Black is part of the city's licensing code. It states that "it is unlawful for any person to refuse admission to a licensing officer, while acting within the scope of his employment, to any place of business or entertainment licensed under any ordinance of the City of Seattle or to any place where licensed persons are employed. ..."

Because the Zodiac is a private club and not a public bathhouse, it does not have to be licensed by the city. "I don't see how the licensing code would obviously apply," said Sampson. And, she pointed out, "generally, administrative inspection is conducted during reasonable business hours." Last Tuesday's incident took place between 10 p.m. and midnight.

"We're standing our ground," said Barnett. "[The police] never gained admittance. ... Our position is that it's not up to us. It's up to the courts and our legal staff. We were involved in the federal grand jury and the pay-offs from way back. We're not going to get rattled."

The Zodiac owners have filed a complaint with the police department's internal investigation section.

Barnett and his partner, Jake Heimbigner, have expressed their willingness to undergo a police inspection during routine office hours. "I told them to come on down," said Heimbigner. "My office is open 'til 4:00."

The owners will still not allow a female officer into the Zodiac, they said. "There could be legal problems if a customer showering turned around and saw a woman officer staring at him."

Jake Heimbigner feels that harassment of Gay people just before the elections is a time-honored custom. And he believes last Tuesday's incident represents just that kind of harassment. "this is normal election politics," he said. "The police are mad at the mayor, and we're a fair target every time the wind blows. ... Every time there is an election, they chase queers and whores."

Seattle Police Department spokesman Lee Libby had no comment about the incident at the Zodiac, and said he had heard nothing about it. The mayor's liaison to the Gay community, Hugh Spitzer, didn't have any comment either. "I'll have to ask the chief [of police]," he said. Officer Moffat was not available for comment.

To view the original article, visit https://issuu.com/sgn.org/docs/sgn_september_1_1978