Calif. Video Store Fights Contempt Charges

Matt O'Conner
GROVER BEACH, Calif. — City attorneys say Diamond Video World is operating in contempt of a court order handed down in June barring adult businesses from the town’s downtown area. But owner Steve Diamond says he has made changes to the store that exempt it from the new rules. The two sides will fight it out in federal court next year.

“I don't think the court's going to ask us to [remove items or close]," he says. "We're in compliance 100 percent. We made all the changes.”

The city’s adult entertainment ordinance allows businesses to sell adult material as long as it takes up no more than 25 percent of the store’s floor space or display area and the store does not derive a majority of its sales from adult material.

After the town obtained the court order in June, Diamond filed an appeal in federal court, charging that the ordinance is unconstitutional. To avoid any legal problems in the meantime, however, he changed the name of his store from Diamond Adult World and replaced a large portion of the inventory with secondhand paperback novels, magazines and dresses.

But Ed Richards, an attorney representing the city in the case, says police officers spent three hours taking inventory of Diamond Video World in October and found 3,456, or about 52 percent of the store’s 6,680 items, were sexually explicit in nature.

According to their count, in other words, more than half the store’s inventory is currently made up of adult material, leading Richards to conclude that Diamond “is still operating an adult business at that location.”

Diamond adamantly refutes the claim and the town’s numbers. He said the officers deemed items such as lingerie and nylon body stockings to be “adult” material simply because several were see-through. The same items, he says, are available at local department stores.

“Anybody can go in any store and purchase any of these items,” Diamond says. “But because it’s in my store, it's adult.”

A U.S. appeals court will determine the merits of the town’s adult entertainment ordinance some time next year.

In the meantime, Richards has asked a lower court to review an inventory list and several photos taken by police to determine if Diamond is in contempt of the June court order. If the lower court finds him in contempt, it could impose a fine, order Diamond to further alter his inventory or even sentence him to time in prison.

Whatever the outcome, Diamond says he is more determined than ever to fight for his right to stay in business. “Unless they kill me,” he says, “I'll still be there.”