By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Ewing got into swinging a couple of years ago, soon after he and Regan started dating. They visited some of the other clubs around town, but found that shabby hotel ballrooms filled with septuagenarians about to get naked wasn't their cup of tea. "We went to a couple of the swinger clubs, but the crowd we wanted to mess around with, they weren't there," Ewing says. Since both he and Regan had experience in event planning, he adds, "We were like, shit, we know people, let's throw a party."
The parties went so well that in 2005 they leased a vacant storefront at 3648 Navajo Street, in the heart of the alternative-arts district, posted a sign that pronounced it the "Seven Cafe and Art Lounge" and began transforming the 3,600-square-foot building into a late-night events club. On their website, they pitched Sindicate as an "upscale lifestyle scene that caters to young, attractive couples and single women." And to make sure the club stayed exclusive to the young and attractive, they introduced a screening process requiring potential members to submit photos and personal essays. They also co-marketed events with promoter Kevin Larson, who throws "sensual parties" at downtown nightclubs like Tabu.
"It's the same demographic," says Larson. "We cater to the twenties, thirties demographic, and we tend to cater toward a prettier crowd, a younger crowd. And that's kind of what [Ewing] does. And we tend to have a lot of mutual friends. So it tends to be a good fit."
But while Sindicate fit well with some, it rubbed others the wrong way. Seifert in particular, Ewing says.
"He was after that same crowd, and we were young, and we're not ugly, and we knew a lot of people," Ewing explains. "So he knew we were going to get the crowd. And he didn't like the competition."
The afternoon powwow in July 2005 was supposed to establish some sort of local protocol for lifestyle promoters -- to essentially serve as a chamber of commerce for swingers.
The meeting had been organized by the newest clubs in town, but more venerable outfits were represented, too. Leaders of the area's oldest swingers group, the fourteen-year-old Rocky Mountain Connections Social Club, were there, as were representatives of Nova NiLLa, a northern Colorado motorcycle swinging club, and the couple behind QTPA2T's, which specializes in takeover-style parties at local martini bars. "We thought this was great," remembers Lady Suzanne of RMCSC. "Finally, we're hearing that we need to work together as a community."
That spring, the growing animosity between Seifert and Ewing had spilled onto the popular swinger meet-up website www.lifestylelounge.com, with negative postings about both Scarlet Ranch and Sindicate, which had opened that March. Michael Andre (who'd also represented Koleen Brooks, the stripper turned Georgetown mayor turned stripper) had even sent Seifert a cease-and-desist letter, asking him to stop the defamatory e-mails and rumors about Sindicate.
Lady Suzanne had seen feuds between swing-club owners in other states create such a commotion that eventually both venues were shut down. She thought the meeting was a signal that the differences between Ewing and Seifert had been settled, but she was wrong. "It ended up being a forum for these two guys to argue," she recalls.
Little progress was made on proposed rules for the fledgling owners' group, and there was no resolution of the Denver rivalry. In fact, it was about to get a lot more heated.
Although everyone in the industry recognized the rivalry between Scarlet Ranch and Sindicate, others outside the lifestyle didn't know the industry existed. Sindicate's landlords, for example.
For fifty years, the small storefront on Navajo had housed a tailor shop. Then Chandler Romeo and Reed Weimer, married artists who've bought several of the buildings on the block that houses Pirate gallery and the Bug Theatre, took on this space, too, and put it up for rent. Ewing and his girlfriend said they wanted to open a coffee shop and art gallery there. "And we were kind of looking for that type of dynamic," says Romeo. "We thought a coffee place would be great for that corner."
As the months went by, though, they noticed that the business never seemed to be open. They also began to hear complaints from neighbors about small crowds emerging from the building at four or five in the morning, people who were noisy and disruptive. "We didn't want to operate on conjecture, so we kind of defended them to other people," Romeo remembers.
But then a friend told Romeo and Weimer that he'd paid money to go to an after-hours party in the building, and that alcohol had been served. When Romeo and Weimer asked their tenants about this, Ewing and Regan told them they were hosting some events in the space, Romeo remembers, and that "everything they were doing they had checked out with the city and was legal."
The www.denversindicate.com website offered a lot more detail, describing an upscale club with a bar and dance area, a "group play/voyeur area," a massage table and a shower.
Like gay bathhouses, porn arcades, S&M dungeons and any number of businesses around town that provide a venue for adults to get off with fellow participants, private swingers clubs are legal. "There isn't anything in the state statutes that would outlaw it," says Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney's Office. "Presuming that they are all of age and are not under the influence of anything that would hinder their ability to consent, etc." But problems can arise when alcohol is served -- not only could liquor affect the ability to consent, but it could put the club in violation of city and state regulations -- or money changes hands.