Conn. Adult Store Sponsors Highway Cleanup

Tod Hunter
HARTFORD, Conn. — LUV Boutique, a small chain of adult stores, has "adopted" stretches of highway in Connecticut, about a year after Gov. M. Jodi Rell denounced billboards as "clutter" ruining the state's landscape and issued an executive order stopping new contracts for billboards on state property.

"I found it kind of amazing after having come off this discussion about billboards and their appropriateness," said Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, who recently spotted an Adopt A Highway sign for the LUV Boutique while driving to Hartford.

Under the Adopt A Highway program, which began in Connecticut in 1999, business groups and nonprofit community organizations "adopt" a section of highway and are responsible for litter pickup there. The adopters enter into a contract that includes hiring workers to provide the cleanup.

Department of Transportation spokesman Judd Everhart said a district office evaluated the company's request to appear on the Adopt A Highway signs, as it does with all requests for the program. The office "found no concerns that would warrant not allowing for the placement of the signs," according to Everhart.

The LUV Boutique, which operates stores in Milford and Hartford, Conn., sells lingerie, costumes, videos, magazines and sex toys. Three signs are near the Hartford store, situated along an area of gentlemen's clubs and adult stores that can be seen from the highway. The fourth is near the exit for the Milford store.

LUV Boutique District Manager Bruce Walmer admitted the signs had promotional value.

"It's a cost off the state, a burden off the state to keep the highway clean and have other people clean it up," Walmer said. "As well as getting our name out there. We're a mainstream business."

The Adopt A Highway program is run by Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation of Santa Ana, Calif., in states across the country, including Connecticut. Firms and civic organizations typically sign two-year agreements with Adopt A Highway, paying between $250-$700 a month, depending the location of the sign. The money is used to hire people to keep the stretch of highway clean.

"There's no precedent for not allowing this stuff," said Jason Stern, President of Adopt A Highway Maintenance.

In 2008, a chapter of a neo-Nazi organization in Missouri agreed to clean up trash along a half-mile section of highway and two signs noting the group's membership in the Adopt A Highway program were erected. Missouri officials said they had no way to reject the group's application. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that allowed the Ku Klux Klan to participate in the state's Adopt A Highway program, determining that membership could not be denied because of a group's political beliefs. A similar ruling was issued in 2005.

Christopher Cooper, a spokesman for Rell, said the governor sees a difference between billboards and the Adopt A Highway signs.

"The governor's primary goal in removing billboards was to beautify the state and keep inappropriate content off our most heavily traveled highways," he said. "The Adopt A Highway program has strict guidelines on signage and what can be posted on them. These are guidelines the Department of Transportation ensures are followed."

The LUV Boutique has announced plans to increase its Adopt A Highway signs to 12 within the next few months.