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In Northeast Philly, a planned Halloween party that’s maybe for swingers isn’t going over well

A Philadelphia swingers club is advertising a Halloween, uh, “event” for Saturday night at a catering hall on Frankford Avenue, and the neighbors aren’t really into it.

A swingers party at a former catering hall in Holmesburg is upsetting neighbors.
A swingers party at a former catering hall in Holmesburg is upsetting neighbors.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

A Philadelphia swingers club is advertising a Halloween “event” for Saturday night at a catering hall on Frankford Avenue, and neighbors want city officials to shut it down.

But they could be out of luck. The Department of Licenses and Inspections said Friday it didn’t have plans to intervene.

Saints and Sinners, which operates a 6,000-square-foot club in Port Richmond, is promoting a party at the former Rosewood Catering Hall at 8832 Frankford Ave. in Upper Holmesburg. The site has stirred controversy for years, since Saints and Sinners owner Tom Sherwood began advertising that the space would become the second location of his Northeast Philadelphia swingers club.

He later backtracked, promising that there would be no sex at the hall — just ballroom dancing and catered events. Things were quiet for a couple of years, and the space was advertised as a veterans hall, but neighbors stumbled upon a “Monsters Among Us Party” that apparently coincides with another event Saturday at the space: the grand opening of something called “Tom’s Loft 2." Saints and Sinners will be closed for the occasion.

“I think the guy has been testing us,” said Upper Holmesburg Civic Association president Stanley Cywinski, “but we’re on top of it.”

Sherwood didn’t return calls and emails seeking comment. Saints and Sinners is not affiliated with the “sex positive” club in the Tacony Music Hall on Longshore Avenue.

The online ad for the event Saturday, first reported by the Northeast Times, doesn’t explicitly say it’s a swingers party. But there are a few lines to read between.

“It’s going to be the sandbox of your dreams where you can play... as adults!!” the ad reads. There will be a costume contest, and prizes are sponsored by Kasidie, an online community “for sexually adventurous people.” Tickets for the party, which runs from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., are available for couples and single women. (None for you, single gents.)

Oh, and a Saints and Sinners membership is required to attend, meaning attendees have to fill out a form certifying that nudity does not offend them and promising not to discuss prostitution “even jokingly.”

L&I spokesperson Karen Guss said Friday that the department did not expect there to be code violations. She said inspectors had visited the property during “similar events” and didn’t find much besides “maybe some uncomfortable-looking costume.”

Guss said the ad wasn’t enough for the department to change plans for its small unit of inspectors who work at night. She said those officials are focused on nuisance properties or serious fire code violations, like bars that operate without permits or licenses, adding that L&I could still act against the catering hall for unauthorized uses.

“We’re aware of concerns that people have about that location, and we are prepared to take action when warranted,” she said, “but we have to use our judgment about things like what to make of that advertisement.”

Special zoning would be required for something like paid performances, but this party doesn’t appear to feature them.

Sherwood, a developer who also operates a Saints and Sinners club in Atlantic City, faced scrutiny from neighbors when he began renovations on the Rosewood, which is in a strip mall, in 2016. Hundreds of residents showed up at a community meeting to try to prevent him from converting what was once a wedding, Bar Mitzvah, and funeral luncheon venue into a sex club.

L&I shut down the venue for a time in 2016 when inspectors discovered renovations — like ripping out the kitchen and adding showers and locker rooms — were taking place without the proper permitting. In 2017, though, L&I granted a building permit after Sherwood presented plans to turn it into a charity catering hall.

Some neighbors never bought that. Cywinski said they’ve kept a close eye on the building’s use in case plans for a swingers club were resurrected.

“This does not belong in our community,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to legally stop any inappropriate activity.”

This story was updated to include additional comment from the Department of Licenses and Inspection.