The XBIZ Weekly Retail Round-Up

Tod Hunter

Conn. Supreme Court Rules Against Adult Store

HARTFORD, Conn. — The state Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the town of Berlin in a decision that will at least postpone the opening of a sexually-oriented retail shop on the Berlin Turnpike. The Connecticut Supreme Court rendered its decision May 20, a month after hearing arguments from representatives of the sides in the matter.

The store, V.I.P. of Berlin, planned to open at the site of a former furniture store on the Berlin Turnpike. The store would have been within 250 feet of a residential neighborhood and the proposed store triggered an outcry from the neighbors.

"The court decision backs up our belief in the duties and powers of The Town Council for [having] police authority to protect our community," Berlin Mayor Adam Salina said. "We very happy and pleased that [the courts] see it as we do."

V.I.P. Attorney Daniel Silver said, "Obviously, we're disappointed with the ruling from the Supreme Court, but of course we respect it."

Silver said, "This case is far from over." He said his client is pursuing other courses of action including a First Amendment challenge that will be heard in federal court in the fall.

Silver said the federal case could not proceed until the state level case was completed.

"I still fully expect that my client will be operating his business at that location. There are serious constitutional issues that have not yet been resolved," Silver said.

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Store Ordered to Stop Adult Sales

ROCKFORD, Ill. — Zoning officers have halted sales of adult toys, videos and magazines at a store here, just days after the city recommended denying plans for an adult-themed business nearby.

City planning official Todd Cagnoni said Secrets is within 1,000 feet of a residential area, so the store needs a special-use permit to sell such items. It may continue selling lingerie and other clothing.

Written notice was sent to the store’s owners after the city became aware of its operation, Cagnoni said.

“The problem is they can come in under what would be a legitimate business of retail sales and illegally convert themselves to a sexually-oriented business without us knowing,” he said.

The ruling comes as a surprise to the owners, said their attorney, Wayne Giampietro.

“It’s sort of strange that they would say that after they’ve been there for six or eight years,” Giampietro said. “I have no idea what they’re talking about at this point. We’re in the process of getting a copy of the zoning code so we’ll have an idea of what the law is.”

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Adult Business Regulation Bill Stalls

BATON ROUGE, La. — Legislation to create new statewide standards for sexually oriented businesses — including a ban on lap-dancing at strip clubs and on private viewing booths at adult bookstores — was stopped by failure to pass a Senate committee vote Wednesday, likely killing it for the session.

Senate Bill 712 by Sen. John Smith, D-Leesville, was brought on behalf of religious and family groups that said it is needed to slow the proliferation of adult businesses in rural areas where there are no zoning laws and that the state has an interest in controlling such activity because it leads to increased crime, drug use and prostitution.

Kathleen Benfield of the American Family Association, who said she has conducted extensive research into sexually explicit material, said sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs are degrading to women. "These are activities that should not even be spoken about in decent company," Benfield said.

But opponents said the bill was too broadly written, and that cities and parishes, not the state, should have the right to determine their own standards.

The Senate Commerce Committee deadlocked on the issue in a 2-2 vote. A tie means the bill cannot move to the full Senate, though Smith can bring his bill up again in the committee.

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City Wins Lawsuit Against Topless Bar

SMITHTOWN. N.Y. — The city of Smithtown recently won a lawsuit against a topless bar that was effectively zoned out of its location after a 1994 town ordinance limited where an adult entertainment venue could be situated, but an attorney for Oasis Gentlemen's Club has said the bar will file for a stay and will appeal the decision.

In her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein said the town "met its burden of providing sufficient alternative avenues of communication" — namely, enough acreage in approved zoning areas for the business to be re-established.

Howard Greenberg of Smithtown, one of the club's attorneys, said none of the sites suggested by the town is suitable.

"The key thing the judge didn't consider is whether a small business can relocate into a site of a five-acre car dealership or a sand pit or the Smith Haven Mall or a multiplex," Greenberg said.

He added that the town code also limits an adult entertainment business to being no closer than 500 feet to a residential district, park, playground, school, church or similar place of public assembly. The town refuses to define "similar," Greenberg said, which could bar the club from relocating to a strip mall where people shop.

After the 1994 ordinance went into effect, the town gave adult entertainment businesses until Jan. 1, 1998, to comply. The previous owner, 490 Habitat Inc., filed a lawsuit against the town the following year challenging the ordinance as restricting free speech.

The town moved to have The Oasis closed on June 7, 2004. Its new owners, TJS Inc., sued the town in 2004, claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional.

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Town Denies Permit for Adult Video Store, Gets Appeal

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. — Less than two weeks after Rocky Mount Town Council adopted an ordinance regulating sexually-oriented businesses, the town has denied a permit for an adult video store and received an appeal of the denial.

The proposed retail lingerie, adult video and sexual novelty store would be within 1,500 feet of Franklin County High School and a store that sells alcohol, in violation of the zoning ordinance.

The town's Board of Zoning Appeals will have a public hearing on the appeal on June 5.

The town's ordinance, which was adopted May 12, regulates businesses such as adult arcades, adult bookstores, adult video stores, adult movie theaters, nude model studios and sexual encounter centers. Sexually-oriented businesses also include nightclubs and bars where persons appears in full or partial nudity.

Town Manager James Ervin said the purpose of the ordinance is to prevent such businesses from becoming a "blighting influence" in any area within the town.

Research indicates that when such businesses exist in communities, they frequently discourage productive business environments from developing, he said.

The ordinance creates a permitting system for sexually-oriented businesses and establishes a 1,500-foot buffer between the adult business and any church, synagogue, mosque, child day-care center, nursery school, preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high schools or other educational institution, residential neighborhood, public park, swimming pool, athletic fields, basketball or tennis courts, or pedestrian/bicycle paths, children's or family-oriented business, motel, hotel, travel lodge, truck stop or business that sells alcohol.

Applicants must pay a $475 fee and include personal information on their age, sex, weight, height, hair and eye color, address, telephone number and criminal record, if any. They must also provide a photograph and fingerprints.

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