The Weekly Retail Report

Tod Hunter

Adult Store Challenges State Sign Law

ABILENE, Kan. — A local adult bookstore has sued the state of Kansas, challenging a statute that restricts sexually oriented businesses from advertising on outdoor signs near state highways.

The Lions Den Adult Superstore filed a federal lawsuit late Wednesday against Kansas Attorney General Stephen Six, arguing that a state statute restricting the location of signs on state highways violates the Constitution's 1st and 14th Amendments.

Under the statute, which was adopted by the Legislature in 2006, advertising billboards from sexually oriented businesses must be taken down before July 1. It also prohibits such businesses from putting up new signs.

The Lions Den also filed a separate motion asking the federal court for a temporary injunction prohibiting Kansas from enforcing the sign statute until final resolution of its lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by Abilene Retail No. 30 Inc., an Ohio corporation doing business as Lions Den Adult Superstore. The firm sued Six in his official capacity as state attorney general.

"The problem with this sign statute, among all the legal mumbo jumbo, is it is exactly the same statute we invalidated in Missouri a year and a half ago," Lions Den attorney Richard Bryant said in a phone interview.

That case initially lost in trial court, but won its appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Bryant said. The language in the Missouri and Kansas sign statutes are nearly identical.

The Kansas Attorney General's office did not have immediate comment on the lawsuit.

The Kansas statute prohibits signs or other outdoor advertising for any sexually-oriented business within one mile of a state highway. It allows a limited exception for onsite signs for such businesses located within a mile of a state highway. Those businesses are allowed one sign giving notice the premises are off limits to minors and another identification sign limited to the name, address, phone and operating hours. The identification sign can also be no larger than 40 square feet.

Violation of the statute is a misdemeanor criminal offense punishable by confinement in the county jail not to exceed one month and a fine not to exceed $500.

The Lions Den has numerous signs on its premises, and leases space on three billboards along Interstate 70, store manager Sabrina Breeden said in an affidavit filed in the case.

The lawsuit notes similar state statutes have already been struck down in Missouri, Georgia and South Carolina.

The Kansas sign statute treats sexually oriented businesses differently from other businesses, which is a clear violation of the 1st Amendment, Bryant said.


City Seeks State Constitutional Amendment on Strip Clubs

TUALATIN, Ore — When word spread last fall that a strip club that would serve alcohol wanted to come to Tualatin, city leaders desperately searched for ways to stop it. They considered alcohol bans, tipping restrictions and buffer zones for dancers before realizing none would work.

Now the city's mayor and two Oregon legislators have proposed amending the Oregon Constitution, targeting nude dancing. Oregon voters have repeatedly rejected this kind of thing: Oregon offers greater protections for speech and expression than are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The proposal will be heard Friday by the Oregon House Judiciary Committee, where support is not expected.

"The voters have spoken," said Rep. Jeff Barker. "I don't see any sense in wasting their time again."

Tualatin leaders are pushing for the amendment in response to Stars Cabaret, a strip club expected to open this summer in a commercial district. Tualatin has 26,000 residents and one nude club, Jiggles, an alcohol-free enterprise one exit south on I-5 from the proposed Stars.

"I personally think that the community values in Tualatin aren't aligned with having nude dancing," Mayor Lou Ogden said. "If anything good does come out of this, in all likelihood, it would be after the Stars issue."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon opposes the amendment, which would need legislative support and the approval of voters. Since 1994, voters three times have rejected constitutional amendments to limit free speech protection for the sex industry.

"They don't want government to tell them what they can read, see or hear," said Andrea Meyer, the legislative director for ACLU of Oregon. "I think the message is clear."


Strip Club Developers Claim City's Zoning Law Unconstitutional

PITTSBURGH — Two companies that want to build a strip club have filed a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging that its process for obtaining zoning permits are unconstitutional.

Pennsylvania Avenue Pittsburgh Properties LLC, which has the right to acquire property at 1620 Pennsylvania Ave., and HDV-Pittsburgh LLC, which hopes to lease the premises, filed the complaint yesterday, alleging that the city's zoning process for adult entertainment establishments is completely discretionary.

HDV hopes to open a "cabaret-style nightclub that would feature live, non-obscene, female exotic dance performance," including clothed, topless and possibly fully nude women, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit calls the adult entertainment use provisions in the city zoning code "facially overbroad," and alleges that they vest government officials with "unbridled discretion," in permitting or denying the activities.

Under the city zoning code, adult entertainment facilities are only permitted in areas zoned "general industrial," "urban industrial," or in the "golden triangle district."

"There are no zoning districts within the entire City of Pittsburgh where adult entertainment uses [whether general or limited] are permitted to locate," the lawsuit said.

The building on Pennsylvania Avenue is in an urban industrial district.

The companies are seeking to prohibit the city from further enforcing the adult entertainment use provisions of the zoning code.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone.


Strip Club Holds Job Fair

DALLAS — Strip clubs here say they've been inundated with applications from people looking for a steady paycheck in the recession, and one clu bplanned a job fair for this week.

"In the past year, we've seen our applicant pool probably double," said Steve Craft, vice-president of of a company that owns at least five strip clubs in Dallas. "Girls that worked for major corporations that now have become entertainers. it's a short time deal but it helps them pay their mortgage until they can move on and try something else,

To meet the influx of applicants, Cabaret Royale has planned a job fair.

Craft said there are plenty of jobs that don't involved removing clothing.

"We are hiring cooks, chefs, office and clerical personnel, waitresses, bartenders, hostesses, entertainers and managers," he said.

The Jobless to Topless Job Fair will be accepting applications for management, entertainers, waitresses, beer bar girls, door girls, bar back, bartenders, kitchen staff, DJs and hair and makeup specialists.

Craft anticipates the company will hire anywhere from 150 to 200 people.


Adult Store Goes on the Block

HULL, England — Gwenap adult store in west Hull, one of the first in the country to sell sexy underwear when it opened in the 1930s, is up for sale as owner Jim Starkey has decided sell the store to someone with fresh ideas.

Ideally, he wants it to remain an adult store.

"I have had the shop for 22 years and took it on as a bit of a hobby," Starkey said. "I would like someone to take over who can do something a little bit different.

"The Internet has taken quite a lot of business away and now I feel it's time for someone else to come in and make the shop their own. It would work well if someone got into a niche market."

Starkey notes that attitudes towards sex have changed over the years.

"People who used to go into the shop would look both ways and put their collar up before coming in. We used to have footballers who would call and ask if they could get in through the back. But we have moved on and people are more broad-minded. It's a lot more acceptable now.

"We have tried to be a naughty little shop without being dirty. We wanted it to be more fun than anything."

The store sold sexy underwear until about 10 years ago when Starkey introduced sex toys.

He said: "I believe this is the oldest sex shop in the country. It started selling sexy underwear in the 1930s. You could say it was pioneering."

Gwenap is so well known, it has become the focal point for the region's sex industry.

"Once, I was looking at bringing in some particularly risqué stock and I wanted some advice to ensure it was above-board," Starkey said. "I contacted the council, which was not sure and referred me to the police.

"They told me it was a grey area and it would be best to seek advice from Gwenap.

"I told them, 'I am Gwenap!'"

Starkey is looking to sell privately and there has already been some interest expressed.

He said: "I can sell all the stock at a good price, but I would like someone to take over.

"I want the shop and the name to remain. We don't want it to be like everywhere else."

Pub Offers Free Beers to Flashers, Angers Ex-Official

NEWCASTLE, England — A former representative has condemned a "wretched" pub for offering free drinks to women if they exposed their breasts to bar staff.

Labor Party rep Denis MacShane of Rotherham claimed the Sinners bar in Newcastle was promoting the degradation of women customers by encouraging them to go topless.

He praised Newcastle University students for their recent boycott of the City Centre venue and urged ministers to encourage other students to spread the message.

Licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe said the pub was behaving irresponsibly, but suggested the Government had the powers to end such advertising.

MacShane asked Sutcliffe, "Are you aware of one of these horrible places called Sinners in Newcastle, where young University of Newcastle students went recently and saw a notice saying 'Whoever shows her — the word begins with T and ends with S — to the bar staff gets a free short. Girls only'?

McShane went on to mention his daughter was a student there who had encouraged local students to boycott the pub.

Sutcliffe replied, "Could I congratulate your daughter and the students at Newcastle University. Clearly that is irresponsible advertising. It is not what we want to see, particularly where alcohol is concerned. But I believe that the roots we have set out in terms of how to deal with irresponsible advertising ... the powers are there. If we can strengthen those powers we will do."