Nashville Adult Bookstore Closed Over 'Lewd Acts'

Tod Hunter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Police officers padlocked the House of Thrills adult bookstore Tuesday by court order after a nine-month investigation into sex acts on the premises.

Nashville attorney John Herbison, who represents the building's owner, told XBIZ that the operators of the House of Thrills business agreed to close down, with a consent decree prohibiting their future operation of the business.

"They threw in the towel," Herbison said.

On Tuesday, Judge Mark Fishburn temporarily granted the city's request to shut down the adult business where police said unprotected sex acts have been taking place for the past year. Five undercover detectives filed affidavits that they observed publicly lewd and unsafe sexual acts involving 55 patrons of the store.

"We're not policing morality," Metro police Sgt. Tony Blackburn said. "But we'll be looking at any public business that allows acts like this."

About 80 arrests have been made at House of Thrills since October for various sexual offenses. Herbison said that the complaints involved "acts of sexual conduct, primarily acts of masturbation, occurring in the video arcade booth area."

Herbison is looking toward a June 9 hearing on the future use of the building. "The government is seeking not only an order of abatement of the alleged nuisance, they are seeking for that order to include a provision that no adult entertainment business be operated in the future at that location. I am resisting that, for a couple of reasons. ... It is not a punitive measure, it is [to prohibit] continuation of the nuisance activity.

"Prohibition on future use of the building, especially of a future use that involves display or distribution of 1st Amendment-protected materials, goes beyond the scope of what the statute authorizes. The Tennessee appellate court has recognized that a prohibition on an adult entertainment business operating under nuisance statutes would be constitutionally suspect. The statute does not authorize what the government is doing. Even if it were authorized by statute, any such order would be unconstitutional. It's my contention that this is a pretext for prior restraint."