A News 4 I-Team investigation into a Nashville sex club has prompted Metro Codes officials to shut it down, at least temporarily.
The club known as The Mark operates in a nondescript warehouse not far from the fairgrounds. As darkness falls, people stream in.
The Mark’s website talks about the community education they provide for the public and its members. It also showcases their “playspace” which features equipment for kinky sex and BDSM - that’s bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.
The Mark has been at its current location for about two years, which was a surprise to the heat and air business next door.
"Whips and chains, and stuff? Dominatrix kind of stuff?” said Rob Ashley, whose business is across from The Mark. "I don't really know what to say right now. I'm kind of confused. I would have never thought it would have been that.”
The Mark's very existence was also a surprise to Metro Codes.
"Did you even know about it?" the I-Team’s Nancy Amons asked Metro’s Zoning Administrator Bill Herbert.
"Did not,” Herbert said.
The Codes Department started looking into it after News 4 asked about the permits for this location.
According to Metro Codes, it’s not illegal for a sex club to be here. This is an industrial district; zoning allows it. But the business has to have a sex club license, Herbert said.
The Mark doesn't have a sex club permit. Their permitted use is for a storage warehouse, not an assembly space for a lot of people.
"Oh, late at night, this whole parking lot is full. Our parking lot is full. There must be something going on at night, but we never knew what it was. It was always after we leave," said Ashley, the neighbor next door.
There's another problem. The club's interior underwent a major renovation in 2015. But there's no record it ever got any renovation permits or inspections.
There were no safety check from the fire marshal, either. The I-Team asked if they have exit signs and sprinklers.
"We don't know that this building is safe. We don't know if it's up to current codes," Herbert said.
Think about a fire breaking out with people tied up or handcuffed.
"It's a scary thought, isn't it?" Herbert said.
The man behind The Mark goes by the nickname "Mercury."
Mercury posts on his profile that he is a dominant, and among his credits 4,000 hours of floor time as a dungeon monitor.
The legal name of the business is Community Perspectives Incorporated. According to Tennessee Secretary of State’s records, the executive director is Thomas L. Hodges. Hodges confirmed he is Mercury.
Hodges agreed to answer some of our questions by email.
“We meet and exceed all applicable requirements for codes and zoning compliance, and have since 2005," Hodges wrote.
He also wrote, "We are not a sex club. We are a BDSM Community Center and operate as a private membership organization."
Yet Hodges’ statement that The Mark is not a sex club appears to be contradicted by something he posted online 11 months ago.
In answer to someone’s question “Is The Mark sex friendly?" Mercury posted a picture of five gallons of lubricant.
Right after the I-Team contacted Codes asking questions about the Marks' permits, an inspector for Codes posted a notice closing them down.
Hodges will have to contact Metro Codes if he wants to try to open back up.
Hodges said via email they are not a sex club because they're a not for profit, but Metro Codes says that doesn't make any difference.
There's a fairly new Metro ordinance about sex clubs. It went into effect in 2015 defining sex clubs and saying where they can be located.
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