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Zoning rules ensnare swingers Club Elite in Pasco

EDITOR'S NOTE: An update to this story has been appended below.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County has filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down a swingers club on U.S. 19.

Inside Club Elite, which sits atop a bakery and deli in a small strip center, adults freely have sex in private rooms and put on sexual performances in public areas, sheriff's investigators found.

But the county's lawsuit isn't concerned with anything so racy. It alleges a simple zoning violation.

The suit, filed Feb. 2 in circuit court, says Club Elite is a sexually oriented business, and as such cannot operate in a building with commercial zoning.

County zoning rules relegate such businesses to industrial parks.

"A permanent injunction is sought to require defendants to cease and desist all sexually themed performances or performances featuring specified anatomical areas," the lawsuit says.

Club Elite, which opened in September 2007, requires paid annual memberships of its patrons — $20 for single women, $100 for single men. Its second-floor windows at 9721 U.S. 19 are tinted black.

Complaints trickled in to the county from residents, but when code enforcement officials questioned club managers, they were told Club Elite is just a private bottle club.

The County Commission began working to better define sexually oriented businesses.

In visits between November 2007 and April 2008, undercover sheriff's detectives purchased memberships under false names and went in to observe. Their reports describe private rooms with beds where people had sex while others watched, as well as erotic performances on the dance floor.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll said some of the activity the detectives saw constituted lewdness under state law. The investigators saw no evidence of illegal drugs, liquor law violations or prostitution.

They didn't make any lewdness arrests, Doll said, in order to continue the investigation without blowing their cover.

Once completed, they turned their findings over to the county. The case is closed from the Sheriff's Office standpoint, Doll said, and no arrests are expected.

County spokesman Eric Keaton declined to comment on the suit until it's resolved.

It names as defendants Club Elite owner Susan Panesso; managers Eric and Angie Kubb; landlord WJ Investments; and S & G Investments of Hernando County, which holds the liquor license. Most either could not be reached Tuesday or said they had not yet seen the suit.

In the sheriff's reports, Eric Kubb is quoted as saying repeatedly that he "runs a clean, nice place" in which he had invested more than $350,000.

"He said he only allows professional, well-dressed people in his club and that he has doctors, lawyers, judges and police that frequent the club," the report says.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6245.

UPDATE: Susan Panesso, who was president of a corporation called Club Elite Florida, filed an affidavit in April 2009 saying Eric and Angela Kubb opened the Port Richey club under that name without her permission or involvement. The Kubbs also told county officials that they, not Panesso, operated the swingers' club. County officials determined Panesso was not the primary focus of their litigation, which was settled in 2011 when the Kubbs agreed to close the Port Richey club.

Zoning rules ensnare swingers Club Elite in Pasco 02/17/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 3, 2013 8:15am]
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