Neighbors Oppose New Santa Rosa Adult Store

Tod Hunter
SANTA ROSA, Calif. — A new adult store in downtown Santa Rosa has launched an ordinance dispute with city officials and prompted protests from surrounding business owners.

The Spice Sensuality Boutique, which opened in late August, carries adult products including lingerie, costumes, massage oils, adult toys, DVDs and bachelor and bachelorette party supplies.

"Our whole image is to create a safe haven for people," Spice co-owner Chuck Freese said. "Spice was developed for women."

Freese and his wife, who live in Santa Rosa, opened a Spice Boutique in nearby Rohnert Park nearly two years ago.

In late September, the couple received a letter from the city informing them that the boutique, which initially had been listed as a lingerie store, was being reclassified as a venue selling adult-oriented merchandise and was violating city ordinances.

"There are a great deal of products which are within acceptable standards — some are not," Santa Rosa Mayor John Sawyer said.

Among the "unacceptable" items are dildos, of which Spice offers a selection.

Freese said he and his wife would be willing to remove products from the store in order to comply, but, Freese said, complaints over the store's presence on Fourth Street are at the root of the ordinance problems.

"We would work with the city, item by item if we had to. We never wanted to fight with the city. We went through the right procedure," Freese said. "In the business application, we stated that we were a sensuality shop and sold bedroom essentials."

City officials and the Freeses disagree on whether the type of products sold were clearly specified before the store received a permit. Regardless of the initial understanding, Sawyer said, the boutique would have to stop selling the prohibited items in order to meet city requirements.

Chari Blackwood of Sonoma said she was comfortable shopping at Spice while her husband and children waited outside.

"It's not lewd and lascivious," she said. "If it weren't for places like this, marriages would go bad."