Fetish Con has quietly ended its 10-year relationship with Tampa, moving its annual bondage and adult entertainment convention/trade show to St. Petersburg.
The reason remains a mystery because the Hilton Tampa Downtown, which hosted the convention for several years, the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, which will be the convention's new home come August, and Fetish Con have declined to explain.
The only insight offered comes from a Dec. 27 post on the Fetish Con Facebook page: "After nine (9) years in downtown Tampa, we felt that with the new management at the hotel came a new mind-set, one which did not work with our vision for the future of Fetish Con. So with that being said, we are moving!"
When asked about what those differences might be, Fetish Con founder Genesis Lynn responded, "No comment at this time," citing legal advice.
Tampa's tourism arm, Visit Tampa Bay, was never directly involved with Fetish Con and had no involvement in the decision to move, according to Kevin Wiatrowski, regional media relations coordinator for the agency.
"We're sorry to see them leave downtown after so many years, but we're glad they've decided to stay in the Tampa Bay area. We wish them luck in their new location," he wrote in an email.
Fetish Con moved from New York to Tampa in its fourth year, and in 2006 found a home in the downtown Tampa hotel, then called the Hyatt Regency Tampa, offering a trade show featuring fetish models, erotica authors, adult film directors, sex toy vendors and workshops with titles like "Wax Play: Hot Fun for Everyone" and "Pain is for Pleasure, Not for Injury."
Organizers aimed to stay ahead of the curve by offering demonstrations in an array of fetishes, including bondage and mummification.
At its peak, it drew more than 5,000 conventiongoers over the course of a weekend. Downtown Tampa residents didn't bat an eyelash to see men in French maid uniforms, leather masks, women in latex dresses or conventioneers carrying whips and balloons.
The convention always had strict decency guidelines, which forbade nudity in common areas and encouraged inspired attendees to keep the sexual activity in their rooms. Detailed rules booklets were distributed at registration and check-in.
In 2013, the Hyatt Regency became a Hilton, and Fetish Con remained an August fixture. With no one commenting on the reason for the move, it's hard to know what caused the rift between the Hilton Tampa Downtown and Fetish Con.
The convention's new venue, the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, advertises a brand new pool for the convention's famed late-night pool parties. This year's event will be Aug. 13-16 with all-access passes available for $50 until March 31, when prices increase.
St. Petersburg can brace itself for appearances by the con's new official furry mascot, Bernie BondageBunny, a tall person in a pink and white bunny suit outfitted in S&M gear; former Hugh Hefner girlfriend and E! Girl Next Door Stacy Burke; dominatrix and BDSM educator Alexandra Snow; and a host of popular fetish models and porn actors.
In that Dec. 27 Facebook post, Fetish Con officials seemed confident the new home would be as unflinching as the old one: "We are very happy with the new home of Fetish Con and we know you will be too! We look forward to seeing you all at the 15th Annual Fetish Con Trade Show!"