A South Omaha building that hosts adult parties is drawing attention from a city official concerned about a lack of oversight for venues that allow people to bring in their own alcohol.
City Councilwoman Aimee Melton cited R-Place, near 24th and Q Streets, as an example during a legislative hearing at the State Capitol on Monday.
R-Place markets itself as “Omaha’s only lifestyle venue where lifestyle friends meet.”
Some adult venues operate as bottle clubs, which allow members to bring their own booze.
Melton said that if people want to engage in consensual sex, that’s their business, but she said bottle clubs ought to be regulated like bars, which are required to permit entry by police to check if they’re complying with laws.
On its website, R-Place advertises BYOB weekend house parties from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. It touts a 4,000-square-foot “elegant upscale classy” venue that has a dance floor, lounges, TVs for adult videos, private bedrooms, plus a “dungeon/basement.” The website includes sexually suggestive photos.
R-Place isn’t open to the public. People wanting to enter must be added to a guest list.
The website specifies a $40 per couple “donation” per night, or $45 for a single man and $25 for a single woman.
A man contacted at the building Tuesday would not give his name, but he said R-Place is not a sex club or a bottle club.
“We’re not a club,” said the man, who says he lives there with his wife. “We have a house. We invite people here and that’s it. ... You can’t regulate what goes on in someone’s home.”
Asked if consensual sex takes place at what he calls “house parties,” the man said: “If someone sneaks off into a bedroom, then yeah. … I don’t know what they do if they go in there and close the bedroom door.”
The man said people should be free to live their lives if they aren’t hurting others.
“It is 2018. People need to stop living in the ’50s. Consensual sex happens all over,” he said. “If consenting adults choose to do that, that is their right.”
He declined to specify how many people take part in the “parties” but said it was “low.” He has been doing this about two years, he said.
The two-story retail building with residential units was built in 1885. It is owned by KK&JN LLC, property records show. The man said he rents the building from the owner.
“We are not here to fight Aimee Melton,” the man said. “We don’t want to give the city of Omaha a black eye. We don’t want to be known as sexual deviants.”
City Attorney Paul Kratz said the city has known about R-Place for some time.
Kratz said he and City Prosecutor Matt Kuhse determined that the establishment wasn’t violating any laws.
“We concluded there was nothing illegal going on that we were aware of or that we could determine,” Kratz said.
Nebraska lawmakers are contemplating a measure, Legislative Bill 747, that would require private bottle clubs to obtain state liquor licenses.
The bill is sponsored by Omaha State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau, Melton’s sister.
Melton argued that the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission should have oversight of businesses where alcohol is consumed.
“I’m concerned for the protection of the customers of the bottle clubs just as much as the safety for the people outside,” she said Tuesday.
The state liquor commission regulates businesses that sell alcohol or that are open to the public and allow people to bring in alcohol.
But establishments like R-Place and Club Omaha, a strip club near 72nd and Dodge Streets that is owned by Shane Harrington, don’t sell alcohol. And such places say they aren’t open to the public: Club Omaha sells memberships; R-Place asks for “donations.”
The City Council last year expanded its good-neighbor ordinance to apply to businesses like Club Omaha, where liquor is consumed during a live performance. That rule targets establishments that are excessively loud or lead to littering, loitering or a variety of other public disturbances.
World-Herald staff writers Kevin Cole and Paul Hammel contributed to this report.