In her private life, Kaye and her husband, Richard, were frequent visitors to sex clubs both at home and abroad. Story continues below advertisement Like many would-be entrepreneurs, Kaye spent ages daydreaming about what her ideal club would look like, incorporating elements she liked from various places she and Richard visited during their travels.
The two wanted to refute the public conception of sex clubs as "dark, dingy and seedy," as Kaye puts it, imagining a place that was clean, bright and inviting, a place where people could feel safe and welcome to explore. The potential business partners had been talking for about two years when, in , a former bathhouse known as Club Toronto on Mutual Street became available for sale.
It's a storied venue: In , during the Toronto bathhouse raids, it was one of four gay bathhouses stormed by police, the site of mass arrests. In , it was the location of the Pussy Palace raids, when a group of women were targeted and harassed by male police officers.
Kaye and her husband joined with Rodriguez and a fourth partner who is no longer involved to pool their personal finances. They avoided trying for a bank loan because they knew their business venture was an unusual one.
Instead, they sought funding from family and friends: All four held on to their day jobs while spending their free time revitalizing the space, hiring interior designer Robin DeGroot to give the old club a facelift while preserving its history. At one point, DeGroot ordered the painters scraping an old bathroom to stop what they were doing.
He said, 'Leave it. We're working with this,'" Kaye says. The final layout includes a heated outdoor pool open year-round, a holdover from the bathhouse days , a hot tub, dance floor, several bars, a ballroom and a dungeon. The top floor is divided into multiple open-concept rooms: On a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was home to no fewer than three couples fornicating. Story continues below advertisement Initially, the club was only open Thursday to Saturday and daytime Sunday, with Kaye and her partners shouldering most of the work.
Soon, the University of Toronto's Sexual Education Centre threw a one-time student event that proved so popular it became a weekly Monday night party called Sass After Class. More people got in touch with ideas for events, from fetish parties to sex-education nights. Now Oasis hosts eight events a week, and is only closed twice a year: With a busier schedule came the need for a staff.
Most of the people who work at Oasis were regulars seeking work. There is a special pool staff who shows up after hours, making sure everything is clean and up to code. The floor staff undergoes gender-sensitivity training and safety training. Safety and consent are integral themes of any successful sex club and Oasis has a strict "ask once" policy to cut down on harassment and unwanted touching.
But for the most part, people come to Oasis because they're lovers. There are regular women- and trans-only nights, and single men are only allowed to attend certain days of the week. Though these nights are well attended, they aren't necessarily financially successful, even though single men are charged a much higher admission rate which changes by day and event than women and trans folks. Story continues below advertisement "I understand that [men's bathhouses] do well, but I could not serve that market," Kaye says.