Area man aims to raise funds to re-open private club The DiplomatWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
After disrepair, alleged theft and vandalism forced the closure of private gay men’s club The Diplomat, a local pastor wants to help the owner raise up to $20,000 to repair and re-open the Toledo business.
The club, located at 1313 N. Summit St., closed in January or February after alleged employee theft made it impossible to make ends meet, said owner Brock Ali.
Ali, 28, took over ownership of the Toledo business as well as a Grand Rapids, Michigan, club of the same name about four years ago after his great-uncle, who started both, retired and moved to California with his partner.
“It had always been a successful, profitable business,” Ali said. “Things slowly fell into disrepair there (in Toledo) and over this past winter I just had problem after problem after problem. And with the weather, we were slow and short on capital.”
Ali, who lives in Grand Rapids, said he struggled to adequately oversee the Toledo location over the winter when he had car trouble and couldn’t make it to Toledo regularly. He said employees at the Toledo club stole money and flat-screen TVs from the business.
“My real problem with Toledo was the workers went in and cleared it out,” Ali said. “They knew I was vulnerable. Stealing money started slow but then I started to notice it more and more. Eventually I had to close it down.”
Ali said the employee he asked to file a police report may have been involved with the thefts and he’s not sure a report was ever filed. Toledo Police records for the property show a report of petty theft in November, and reports for disorderly conduct and breaking and entering in October.
Ali said the Grand Rapids location opened in 1980 and the Toledo location opened around 1994, offering a sauna, steam room, massage rooms, whirlpool, private rooms and more. The Grand Rapids location is in good condition and doing well, Ali said.
The Rev. Dewey Edwards, 50, an openly gay pastor at Temple of Christ Universal Life Church, said he frequented The Diplomat in Toledo since he was a young man. After noticing vandalism, he contacted Ali.
“He’s been a customer in the past and tracked me down,” Ali said. “Honestly I haven’t gone and looked at it. I’ve just heard reports of it. I did call the police about that. I just haven’t really known what to do or where to go about it.”
Ali estimates between $10,000 and $20,000 in repairs would be needed to re-open the business. Donations are needed as well as expertise in drywall, painting, roofing, electrical and more.
“For me, it would mean a lot to be able to keep the business running for my great-uncle,” Ali said. “He created the business out of a real need for a clean and comfortable atmosphere where guys can get away and socialize and so on. I know there are a lot of customers who utilized that business and it means a lot to them. As a business owner, I want to be able to provide that to them. It shouldn’t have gone the way that it did. Things were so fragile and just in one moment of vulnerability, we got kind of taken advantage of.”
That’s why Edwards said he offered to help Ali raise money to preserve the business.
“It was just a safe haven and it’s something we need here in Toledo, especially for the younger generation coming up who need somewhere to go,” he said. “And it’s historic. We can fundraise to help bring it back to the way it should be.”
For more information, contact Edwards at (567) 218-8731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.