Maine Adult Bookstore Sponsors Petition to Reopen

Tod Hunter
FARMINGDALE, Maine — The 1st Amendment Adult Book & Video Store here, which closed June 12 to comply with a law limiting adult businesses, has sponsored a petition asking for an amendment to that law that would allow the store to reopen.

A public hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 15 to discuss the petition.

The adult business law was passed in 2002 after a second adult bookstore opened down the street from 1st Amendment. That store closed, but the owners sued, costing the city $50,000.

The 1st Amendment store, which had been in business for 10 years before the 2002 law was passed, is in violation of several provisions of the law, which requires a 1,000-foot setback from the nearest residence, a 200-foot setback for the driveway entrance, and a 6-foot-tall solid fence between the store and the nearest residence. Additionally, the 12 viewing rooms are in violation because they do not have one open side. The store also has not applied for a "sexually oriented business license," which is required annually.

Store owner Will Stuart said he didn't apply for a license because he knew the store was not in compliance with the law, according to the Kennebec Journal.

When the law was adopted in March 2002, Stuart was given five years to be in compliance, with town officials recognizing Stuart's investment in the store and the problems of relocating. The store couldn't comply, leading to the June 12 closure.

Stuart has submitted a petition to the town with more than 150 signatures asking that the ordinance be amended so his business can be "grandfathered," because the store was operating before the new ordinance was passed.

"I've got an impeccable background. I'm a good citizen — they'll tell you that at town hall — and I run a good operation," Stuart said. "There's nothing seedy about it. It's legitimate and upfront. There's no neon lights. It's simply an adult bookstore."

A city official observed that people in town may not have realized when they passed the ordinance that Stuart would have to shut down. He said they believe 1st Amendment should have been allowed to remain since it has been in town for so long.

After the Aug. 15 hearing, a special town meeting will be held in September to vote on the amendment and a second referendum question asking that the sexually oriented business ordinance be repealed.

Stuart said he initiated that referendum by mistake.

"I'm going to suggest a 'No' on that one," he said. "The lawyer who did the paperwork wrote it up to repeal the ordinance. I didn't realize the wording was wrong until I turned it in. Then it was too late. So I went and did it all over again to grandfather the store, not repeal [the ordinance]."

Stuart has said he wants the store to remain where it is and he is in the process of renovating it in hopes of reopening, but he would choose to keep the store closed rather than break any laws or cost the town legal fees.