Drag queen in battle with residents over late licence for sauna

Raymond Inverarity
Raymond Inverarity
Have your say

A FORMER drag queen who was forced to close his gay sauna after a long-running feud with neighbours is set to make a return to the city’s massage parlour trade.

Raymond Inverarity has taken over the Sunbed Studio in Bonnington and sparked a battle with residents over a bid for a 1am late licence.

Raymond Inverarity is applying for a late licence after taking over the Sunbed Studio in Bonnington

Raymond Inverarity is applying for a late licence after taking over the Sunbed Studio in Bonnington

The location of the sauna – opposite the playpark at Pilrig Park – is already a concern amongst families in what is a largely residential area.

Tenant Mary Bamer is closing her business and Mr Inverarity is applying for a public entertainment licence to allow massage and escort services, along with extended hours.

Police have told councillors on the licensing sub-committee that granting the 1am licence could affect local residents – and lead to a string of requests for extended hours from saunas across the city.

Malcolm Chisholm, Edinburgh North and Leith MSP, has objected to the move, claiming it is “totally inappropriate for a residential tenement block” and would be “detrimental to local amenity”.

Roland Reid, secretary of the Leith Central Community Council, said the location and nature of the business was a concern. He said: “We think this is inappropriate given its location. The children’s play area is less than 200m away.

“Moreover, Leith will welcome Edinburgh’s first dedicated Gaelic Medium nursery and primary school in August 2013 at Bonnington Primary School. The siting of a sauna/massage parlour in the vicinity of the school is therefore inappropriate.”

It is not known whether Mr Inverarity intends to run the sauna as an all-male premises, mixed, or women-only.

Mr Inverarity was a well-known drag performer who ran the Bodytech Sauna in Haddington Place, Leith Walk, throughout the 1990s.

Its closure in 1997 followed years of complaints that its presence attracted men looking to pay for sex to the area, and claims that the sauna was causing wet and dry rot in the apartments above.

He also ran Picardy’s Drag Bar in Picardy Place and was defeated in an industrial tribunal by staff who claimed they had never been paid.

Councillor Deidre Brock, who represents the Leith Walk ward, said there were already at least three saunas within several blocks of the site and that constituents had “expressed strong fears” that any increase would lead to Leith becoming a focus for the sex industry.

When the Evening News visited the sauna yesterday a man refitting the premises, believed to be Mr Inverarity, declined to discuss the new venture.