The operators of a swingers club at an upscale north Arlington home say they will fight the city’s efforts to shut down their weekend parties.
On Wednesday, Arlington officials sent the owners of the house in the 2400 block of North Cooper Street a letter telling them to shut down immediately, accusing them of illegally operating a home-based business.
The address is advertised online as a lifestyle club called Eutopia, which reportedly has had nearly 60 themed and generally erotic parties — some with up to 200 guests — since May.
The city began investigating Eutopia last summer after neighbors complained that the front lawn had been paved over and that up to 70 vehicles at a time were parked there, officials said.
“The city staff from multiple departments started doing some review and investigation and determined recently that we believe they are running a business out of that single-family home,” Deputy City Manager Jim Parajon said Thursday.
“It is a commercial enterprise. It’s about the use of the property, not the morality of it. It’s simply a land-use issue.”
But David Esopenko, who leases the house for the private parties, said Eutopia isn’t a home-based or sexually oriented business.
“We have no employees. We do not ask for a membership. We have like-minded friends over to hang out at our property,” Esopenko said.
“This is intimidation by the city thinking we’ll go, ‘Oh, my, we’re embarrassed.’ We are not embarrassed about what we are doing. We’re not the Cherry Pit.”
The Cherry Pit was a Duncanville sex club in a residential neighborhood.
Arlington’s ordinance requires that a home-based business be “incidental or secondary” to its purpose as a dwelling and not exceed more than 25 percent of the floor space.
Online reviews describe Eutopia as a beautifully decorated three-story house featuring several playrooms with mirrors, a pool, a dance floor and a kitchen area open to guests. The house is nearly 4,700 square feet.
The most recent party was Saturday.
“The number and scale of Eutopia’s operations, in addition to the neighborhood complaints, clearly shows the negative impact on the surrounding residential neighborhood,” Parajon wrote in his letter to the owners and interested parties.
Frank Jelinek, who lives two doors from Eutopia, said neighbors have complained to the city for months about the number of vehicles and the overflow parking along East Beady Road. Commercial use of the house is inappropriate for the neighborhood, Jelinek said, and he’s concerned that the activity might affect his property value.
“I want to run them off,” Jelinek said. “If they want to engage in that conduct, that is fine. Go somewhere else.”
The city’s letter is addressed to owner James Self and Mary Self of Azle and interested parties David and Shannon Esopenko of Weatherford. The Selfs and Esopenkos have 10 days to request an appeal before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, according to the letter.
“If they do not appeal within that prescribed time, the decision is final,” city spokesman Jay Warren said Thursday. “We would, if necessary, take legal action to prevent what is happening there.”
David Esopenko said he plans to appeal and will host a scheduled Super Bowl pre-party Saturday.
James Self said Friday that he’s not received the letter from the city and he doesn’t have anything to do with the activities going on at his investment property, which he rents to the Esopenkos.
“The man pays his rent every month. He’s not a bad renter. He’s a friend of mine,” said Self, who said he’s had friends and relatives calling to ask whether he is running a sex club because of the media coverage on Eutopia.
Self said he expects to eventually sell the home to the Esopenkos and does not have plans to become involved with the city’s zoning issue on the property.
“When you rent a property, you do what you want to with it,” Self said. “I’ve been to one of his parties. It is drug-free. You don’t leave drunk. He’s very, very strict on everything. It was a well-run, very classy adult party.”
Weekend parties can range from four to 40 couples who must be on an approved guest list, Esopenko said. To help them mingle, party guests are offered color-coded wristbands to indicate their sexual interests to other partygoers, but they’re just as likely to be hanging out, “talking about kids, drinking wine and dancing to ’80s videos,” Esopenko said.
“It happens to be geared toward people who are more open with their lifestyles than others. It doesn’t mean people show up and get nude and get in a pile together. That is not what is happening.”
The club’s suggested donation for participants is $80 for a couple, $20 for single women and $80 for single men who arrive with a couple, according to a swingers date club website. Esopenko said that guests are invited to leave donations, which help cover food and drinks, in a box and that no money ever changes hands.
“The average person that comes is a nurse, teacher, fireman, policeman, judge, former Arlington city councilman. These are people who don’t like to go to normal clubs to hang out because they are too dark, too loud,” Esopenko said.
The venue has received rave reviews from visitors, who describe Eutopia as a “clean, beautiful home full of sexy, smart people.”
“The only drawback I’ve found is the mattresses are a little hard, but that won’t stop me from having fun there,” one reviewer wrote.
Online photos of Eutopia show a removable dance pole that was recently added to the living room.
“There are a lot of homes with poles,” Esopenko said. “It’s a lot tamer than if you would go to any strip club.”
In its letter outlining evidence of business activities, the city says Eutopia has online venue reviews and valet parking and provides guests with food and beverages, mixers, condoms, themed rooms and laundry services.
Eutopia does not provide condoms to guests, Esopenko said.
The property, south of Northeast Green Oaks Boulevard near East Beady Road, was appraised at nearly $487,000 last year, according to the Tarrant Appraisal District.
Residents began complaining to the city after the lawn was paved to allow dozens of vehicles to be parked. North Arlington Councilman Charlie Parker said he has attended at least a half-dozen meetings with residents and city department officials since last summer about the house.
“This is unacceptable having this type of activity in our neighborhoods,” Parker said. “Homeowners’ rights are one thing, but paving your entire lot is something else. That is not normal for a residence to have.”
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639