For those who thought owners of adult businesses on Cheshire Bridge would lie low after dodging a bullet last year by narrowly avoiding a massive overhaul to the corridor’s zoning codes, think again.
Plans are in the works for a rebranding and renovation of adult store Inserection, adding a new space that will have bondage rooms, private bedrooms, a massage area and a dance floor and updating the exterior fascia and interior video booth section of the facility. The name of the store would also change to Tokyo Valentino; the first Tokyo Valentino opened in Miami earlier this year.
But the COO of Inserection, which caters to largely to gay and bi men, says city of Atlanta officials are unnecessarily delaying the process, holding up the renovations of the facility that previously was on track to be done and ready for a grand opening by late July.
Miami location of Tokyo Valentino model for Atlanta location
Inserection COO Michael Morrison, who is straight, says he ran into litigation issues opening the Miami location of Tokyo Valentino and he’s quick to answer why.
The Miami location opened in April and spans 7,000 square feet. A $7.50 entry fee gives customers free rein of the facility to play pool or video games, use the private bedrooms, use the viewing booths to watch movies (most likely not the Disney variety) and more.
“Once you begin to feel at home, make your way to the movie area where couples, singles and groups can participate in a true viewing experience,” the club’s website states. “Our locking booths and bedrooms allow you to be as private as you please.”
Gay event promoter to lease part of new space
The changeover from Inserection to Tokyo Valentino is just one of the many changes to that side of Cheshire Bridge and continuing south down Piedmont Avenue. Mama’s (formerly Taco Cabana) and a neighboring retail strip that included Artlite, Pot ‘N Pan diner and other businesses were razed last year to make way for a planned mixed-use development with a seven-story parking deck. Future inhabitants are scheduled to include Sprouts Farmers Market.
Morrison sold the Inserection chain in 2010 but kept the Cheshire Bridge location while on the hunt for a better concept and soon hit upon Tokyo Valentino.
Gay event promoter Chris Coleman will lease out the new space (minus the video booth and retail portion of the store) from Morrison, who describes it as “almost like an LGBT non-alcoholic health club. It’s like Manifest but with a nicer package.”
Manifest, located off Faulkner Road, bills itself as a “members only fraternal studio for gay and bisexual men.” The club’s main draw is a back room called “The Matrix” which includes several sectioned off rooms separated by plywood with peepholes and larger holes at waist level (known as “glory holes”), a sex sling and a viewing area to watch pornographic movies projected onto a sheet on a back wall.
Coleman, who pegs the budget for new equipment alone in the five figures, uses the term “megaplex” to describe the space he’ll be leasing.
“There will be different things going on in there but it stays in tune with Inserection and the new brand Tokyo Valentino,” Coleman says. “Bondage rooms with incredibly upscale equipment, private rooms, porn stars are scheduled to come. There’s all sorts of things happening over there.”
‘We’ve got some low-level bureaucrats holding up the process’
But Morrison is frustrated over what’s not happening yet, and that’s getting his building permits so he can start renovating.
“The city is still giving us a hard time about our permits even though we’re entitled to everything we’re proposing,” he says. “This should have been done within a week but we’ve been going on for three months now. We’ve got some low-level bureaucrats holding up the process. But we’re going to win.”
Morrison was among a group of Cheshire Bridge business owners who were targeted last year by gay Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan’s proposed legislation that would have changed the zoning ordinances and forced many adult businesses to close or move from the corridor by 2018. The legislation would have bypassed a grandfather clause that protected many of the businesses. The proposal passed in the city’s zoning committee, but failed in front of the full City Council nine votes to six last June.
Morrison later briefly floated the idea of running against Wan that November for his City Council seat, saying of his own past legal issues including a stint in federal prison for tax evasion, “I may not be electable, but a vote for me is a vote against Alex Wan.” He later decided against running.
Morrison was also arrested in the mid 1990s on obscenity charges and police raided his stores several times. Eventually he helped strike down the state’s obscenity law in a time known by some as the “dildo wars.”
Wan tells the GA Voice that he was not aware of the proposed changes happening at Inserection. The three neighborhood associations that abut Cheshire Bridge Road—Piedmont Heights Civic Association, Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood Association and Morningside-Lenox Park Association—did not respond to the GA Voice’s request for comment as of press time.
Despite the delays, Morrison says he is hopeful to soon receive the building permit for Tokyo Valentino.
Correction: A previous version of this story listed Michael Morrison as owner of Inserection—he is COO.