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Sex shop signs off on Valentine's Day

On Monday, the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses started accepting applications for medical marijuana dispensary licenses — which every operational dispensary must apply for by March 1, under the ordinance passed last month by Denver City Council. Wesley Fazio was one of dozens of people who spoke at the public hearing that preceded that vote, and he didn't sugarcoat his displeasure over council's decision to replace January 1 with December 15 as the sales tax license cut-off date, grandfathering in dispensaries that would otherwise be in violation of the new buffer zones.

That's because Fazio had gotten the sales tax license for his dispensary, at 2193 West Evans Avenue, on December 30.

So he wasn't about to be caught napping when the city started accepting dispensary license applications. He arrived at the Wellington E. Webb Building at 7 p.m. the night before, parked his car outside and slept there. "I have on long johns," he said, "but it was not a good time."

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Hysteria

Still, his efforts paid off when he was first in line the next morning. The paperwork was complete in just twenty minutes, after which he had to pay $5,033 for the application and a first-year fee — for a dispensary that isn't even open yet — and then have his fingerprints taken for the background check.

By the time he was done, the line of people waiting for fingerprints was long (everyone who owns at least 10 percent of a dispensary must be fingerprinted for a background check, and there was only one machine in the department), but the number of people waiting to do paperwork had dwindled from fifty to two — fewer than the number of reporters in the room.

And by the end of the day, the department had processed twenty applications (and sent six more back to be completed). That's a quick hundred grand in the city coffers, with more to come. Because as of Monday morning, Denver had issued 484 sales tax licenses to dispensaries — every one of which will need to file for a dispensary license within the next few weeks in order to stay in business.

No way to fill the void: Valentine's Day wouldn't be what it is without sex toys, and Denver won't be the same without its "sex-positive" erotic toy shop. Nevertheless, the owners of Hysteria, at 114 South Broadway, have been screwed from behind by an uncaring economy. Their store, a two-time Westword Best of Denver award winner, will close on February 14.

The boutique, owned by Elizabeth Hauptman and Pete Yribia, had been in business for five years, selling non-toxic sex toys and women-friendly porn. "We were very particular about what kind we would carry," Hauptman says. "We watched everything first so we could tell people what it was. It was porn that doesn't degrade women."

Store employees also educated consumers about safe toys and catered to a variety of communities, many of which may have felt marginalized by other erotic outlets. "We went about sex in a different way," Hauptman adds. "Most women wouldn't go to another store by themselves, but they didn't need to come here with a pack of people to feel safe."

And they definitely felt safe in this sex shop. "The biggest compliment for us is when people ask if they can use our bathroom," Hauptman says, then laughs. "I knew we must be doing something right."

But things went wrong with the bad economy, and large banks quit lending money to small businesses. And since Hysteria sells sex, the owners couldn't get other institutions, like the Small Business Administration or microlenders, to sign off on a loan. "We would have been able to sell the store in a heartbeat, but no one could get the financing to buy it," Hauptman explains. "It's unfortunate that this idea can't survive when other adult stores don't have a problem making tons of money. We were trying to shift perspectives and help the community. Maybe they just weren't ready for it. Maybe it was just bad timing."

To send the store out in style, Hysteria will have a party starting at 7 p.m. on February 13, complete with music, dancing, food, wine and a big sale. After that, you're on your own.

While Hysteria was counting down the days, things were swinging last Saturday at the Indian Hot Springs resort in Idaho Springs, where Exotic Swing Parties hosted a Valentine's Day fest for folks who like to try a little more than roses and chocolate. The "erotic garden of Eden playground" featured a bar/pool party and private "play areas." And while clothing was required in the bar and pool area, only a wristband — and $100 per couple — was needed to get you into the vapor caves and soaking pools. (Kara and Eric, the contacts listed on Exotic Swing Parties' website, didn't respond to requests for details about the love fest — though for the sake of the springs, we hope they were using non-toxic sex toys like the ones sold at Hysteria.)

Parties like this — in which a group books the entire facility — help keep the place going, says Indian Hot Springs owner Jim Maxwell, especially since he introduced a mandatory bathing suit policy for the public in the caves last November (Off Limits, October 23, 2009). The change — after decades of allowing nudity in certain areas — was a result of too many men arranging on Craigslist to meet up at the pools to have sex, he explains. Since then, the sex has died down — but so has business.

"Sales have been lacking somewhat," Maxwell admits. "I'm hoping that will turn around." And in the meantime, he at least gets some weekend visits from sore, traffic-jammed skiers returning to Denver on I-70.

"God forbid they ever make the highway better," he says.

Pure gold: Colorado College economics professor Daniel Johnson believes Canada will take home 27 medals (including five golds) from the Winter Olympics in Vancouver — more than any other nation — and there's a good chance he'll be right. Johnson has forecast previous winners with a 94 percent accuracy rate using a model that takes into account a country's per capita income, population, climate and political structure.

That might be bad news for Colorado's many athletes at the Games, which start Friday, but it's good news for our northern neighbor, which was shut out of the gold medal competitions the last two times it hosted the Olympics, in 1976 and 1988.

Then again, Johnson is a proud Canadian himself.

Scene and herd: MTV was at the Denver School of the Arts last week, filming for the Breakfast Club-inspired If You Really Knew It. For older, much older music news, yes, that was Jerry Corbetta, lead singer/keyboard player for the Denver-based Sugarloaf, boarding a Denver-bound plane in New Orleans on Sunday. Corbetta, whose biggest hit was "Green-Eyed Lady," is part of the Classic Rock All-Stars lineup — also featuring Mike Pinera, guitarist/singer for Iron Butterfly and Alice Cooper, and Peter Rivera of Rare Earth — that started touring back in 1990 and had played a casino show in Biloxi, Mississippi, the night before.

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