The county health department said business licensing was none of its concern. A Minnesotan for life, he is married and surrounded by friends who have only multiplied since he created the Warehouse. But this time, Delage is much more guarded about who he admits. Other people might not be that way, but where is government going to be? Other cities have revisited their laws and reopened the bathhouses, says Gary Schiff, a former 9th Ward councilman who is running for his old seat this year. So he set out to make it so by outing it to every governmental agency he could. Minneapolis, as it turns out, is far behind the times on this matter. The Warehouse meant something to men of a certain age, where they could be free to be who they were and do what they pleased. Though a seemingly finicky requirement, noncompliance could lead to devastating consequences, as in the notorious case of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland last year.
Everywhere there are dark corners for quiet talk. Yet there are others in the middle who do not view the outing of the Warehouse so personally. While he was discussing his research on s laws that banned bathhouses and other places gay men frequented for sex, another man interjected. AIDS is no longer the exclusive gay male disease it was once billed to be, and medications like Truvada liberated gay men to have sex with peace of mind. More apt to homework than groundwork, Mehring put off going to see the Warehouse for as long as he could. Built small, his winter jacket an oversized husk on a wiry frame, he navigates the city by bus, toting his important papers in a plastic bag. Because it was not a registered business, the fire marshal did not inspect the Warehouse to ensure it met code. We look at it as our goal is to protect public health and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and the ordinance currently is not a tool for that. For them, this could be an opportunity in disguise in the long arc of progress for gay people. All agree that the language is clearly outdated. There was one such institution that still existed in Minneapolis, he told Mehring. The crackdown culminated in extensive personal losses. He answered yes, indeed he was. Others migrated away amid unflattering rumors that Delage had been jailed the night of the police raid, the Warehouse condemned. Minneapolis, as it turns out, is far behind the times on this matter. Friends brought friends who told friends. Mehring draws a parallel between the Ghost Ship and the Warehouse because both belonged to marginalized people — artists in a gentrifying neighborhood, and gay men whose edgier sexual preferences are still looked upon with discomfort. And the Warehouse was his magnum opus, the outpouring of all his creative powers of design, building rehab, and the conversion of eclectic garage-sale treasures into novel furnishings and playthings. He was anxious, he says, because he knew he was there to bust up the party. But he is as furious with Mehring as a gentle giant can be. The Warehouse also kept people out of the mall bathrooms, parks, and beaches that had been the traditional hookup sites for gay men in the days before Grindr. The people Nick met there became friends. Its departments of health, fire, zoning, and housing each believed, in their own way, that they had a regulatory responsibility to close the Warehouse. But this time, Delage is much more guarded about who he admits. The Warehouse, as the legendary institution had come to be known, was no more. At the same time, he was intrigued, even alarmed.
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