Embattled Ariz. Club Re-Opens as Gay Bar

Scottsdale, Ariz. — A Scottsdale, Ariz. nightclub owner who made headlines for banning transgender patrons has turned his establishment into a gay dance club.

Owner Tom Anderson re-opened the night club Anderson’s Fifth Estate as Club Forbidden on Dec. 28. He said that the move was a business decision, and not the result of any political pressure.

“Politics has nothing to do with it at all,” Anderson told the East Valley Tribune. “It gives the people a place in the East Valley to come and dance.”

In November, Anderson settled a year-long dispute with a transgender patron, Michèle DeLaFreniere. In autumn, 2006 Anderson banned DeLaFreniere and six of her transgender friends from the club after female patrons complained “men in dresses” were using the women’s restroom.

DeLaFreniere, who also chairs Scottsdale’s Human Relations Commission, filed a sex discrimination suit against Anderson. She dropped the suit in November, after Anderson installed a single-stall unisex restroom and let her return to the club.

Anderson said his dispute with DeLaFreniere changed his perspective on the needs of gays and transgender people.

“If anything, it gave me a better understanding of their needs,” he said. “I’m a businessman in the entertainment business, and I want to provide the best entertainment that’s out there for markets that don’t get what they need.”

Equality Arizona, a gay-rights group which had tried to mediate Anderson’s dispute, said that the club’s face lift was “exciting … and kind of humorous.” BS West, the only other gay bar in downtown Scottsdale, said it welcomed the friendly competition.

"It will be good for the community to have another gay bar in Scottsdale," BS West owner Heather Dowd told the Arizona Republic.

 Anderson’s decision ends a year of considerable advances for Scottsdale’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. In the wake of several attacks against gay couples the City Council voted to extend its non-discrimination ordinance to gay and transgender city employees. The City Council, however, stopped short of drafting an ordinance to extend those protections to private businesses.

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