Adult Shop License Renewed Despite Local Opposition

Q Boyer
KITTERY, Maine — The Town Council of Kittery voted Wednesday to renew the video-viewing booth license for a location of adult video chain store Amazing.net in their town, despite opposition from one council member who voiced concerns over the store’s location.

Councilor Jeff Thomson introduced a motion to deny the store’s renewal application on the basis that the store, located on Route 236, has several families with children living nearby.

Thomson acknowledged that the store has a legal right to exist, but suggested that denying the video booth license might lead the store to leave without a courtroom battle.

“I believe that when issues like this arise, it is always cited to be a 1st Amendment issue,” said Thomson, according to SeacoastOnline.com. “But I don’t believe activity of this type is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they drafted the Constitution.”

Thomson added, “One never knows that if perhaps another obstacle is placed in front of them, at some point they may feel it’s not worth it and leave.”

Other councilors, although sympathetic to Thomson’s view of the store, said they cast their votes according to their understanding of the law, and not their personal feelings about adult entertainment businesses.

“I think the majority of the people sitting here feel the way Jeff does,” said Councilor Ann Grinnell. “But I have to vote for [the license renewal] because they can legally have that facility at that location. I wish they couldn’t, but they can.”

Councilor Judy Spiller concurred, noting that as “offensive as it might be, they are complying with our ordinances.”

The Kittery location of Amazing.net reportedly has been under scrutiny since 2005, when residents complained to local officials that they had found used condoms and other items of a sexual nature on the roadside near the store. Residents in the immediate vicinity of the store also complained about the store’s customers parking their cars near homes in the neighborhood, and alleged that patrons of the store were urinating and masturbating in public view.

The town council enacted new regulations in 2006 in response to complaints, prohibiting the use of curtains or doors on video viewing booths, and to restrict parking in the area.

Wednesday, however, Town Manager John Carter said his office has not received any recent complaints about the store.

“Things have turned around, in my point of view,” said Carter.

Reed Lee, a Free Speech Coalition Board member and president of the 1st Amendment Lawyers Association, told XBIZ that the fact that the council renewed the store’s license was “good news, because that means they are following the constitution.”

“The laws are designed to keep officials from using licensing regulations as a form of prior restraint,” Lee said, noting that the government cannot do through inaction — like simply denying the store its license without cause — that which it is not permitted to do through action, like denying the store the right to operate through an ordinance prohibiting adult shops altogether.

“Whether town governments like it or not, the Supreme Court has said these businesses are protected by the 1st Amendment,” Lee said.