The XBIZ Weekly Retail Round-Up

Tod Hunter

The Only Sex Shop in Martinez Closes

MARTINEZ, Calif. — The downtown sex shop that bedeviled city leaders for years closed recently, without fanfare, when the building owner chose not to renew the store's lease.

Frenche's Erotica, the city's only adult business, didn't go down in a blaze of glory, even after a pitched First Amendment battle.

"It came in as a book store and then all of a sudden it became an adult bookstore and we were like, 'Oh, my God, we have an adult bookstore in our downtown,'" Mayor Rob Schroder said. "At one point we were very anxious to have him leave, and Stanley just kind of quietly left."

Owner Stanley Kuhns had owned Frenche's on Escobar Street for more than a decade. Kuhns opened the shop as a regular bookstore in 1992, and within two years he was selling racy titles and running adult video booths.

He created a stir in 1998 when he asked the city for permission to open a teen center — featuring pool tables, an arcade and a dance floor — in the other half of the building Frenche's occupied. That plan fizzled after police arrested Kuhns on suspicion of sharing nitrous oxide with a 16-year-old boy.

While Kuhns was sitting in the county jail, the city's request that a judge close the business ran smack into the 1st Amendment and a group of attorneys well-versed in defending legal challenges to adult entertainment enterprises.

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Strip Club Developer Sues Over Zoning Rules

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — A developer who wants to open an "upscale" strip club on the site of a former Elks Club lodge has filed a federal lawsuit against the town, claiming zoning regulations unconstitutionally restrict adult entertainment establishments from operating successfully.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New Haven by developer Mark Chu, marks the second time in six months that Chu has sued the town over zoning regulations. He withdrew his original federal suit after the town's planning and zoning commission agreed to review its regulations to see if changes needed to be made to accommodate adult entertainment businesses.

The commission considered altering the regulations so such establishments could be opened in two different parts of town, in the North Meadows neighborhood and in the Prestige Park area, both of which are heavily residential, but residents responded angrily to the commission's proposed changes, saying they did not want adult entertainment businesses near their homes. Last month, commission members voted 4-3 to keep the regulations as they are written.

Chu's attorney, Kim Coleman, said Thursday that the second federal suit has been filed because the town has not shown a willingness to acknowledge the right of adult entertainment clubs to operate successfully.

"There has to be a reasonable place where these clubs can do business," she said. "We are asking for a change in the zoning regulations as well as anything else the law allows, including legal fees."

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Hampton Considering Restrictions on Adult-Oriented Businesses

HAMPTON, Iowa — The city recently approved the first reading of an ordinance that would regulate and limit adult-oriented businesses to its heavy industrial district. The ordinance would include but not be limited to adult bookstores, adult motion picture theaters, adult entertainment and adult novelty shops.

City Administrator Ron Dunt said no particular situation prompted the idea. Members of the city's planning and zoning committee had considered recommending such an ordinance for several years.

The committee decided such an ordinance could protect Hampton from purported negative side effects, such as increased crime, sexually transmitted diseases and lower property values.

Under the proposed ordinance an adult-oriented business must be in the heavy industrial district and not within 500 feet of a residential district, place of worship and schools offering early childhood through 12th-grade education. Adult-oriented businesses must also stay away from registered day cares, public parks and playgrounds, other adult entertainment businesses and existing establishments that sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises.

Hampton's ordinance faces two additional readings and a public hearing before final approval.

A public hearing is scheduled for July 22.

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Petoskey City Council Considers Zoning Restrictions for Adult Businesses

PETROSKEY, Mich. — Zoning regulations that would restrict the placement of adult businesses in Petroskey, Mich., got initial consideration from the city council Monday. The council deferred final action on the adult business rules until a future meeting.

The city’s zoning ordinance currently doesn’t address adult-themed businesses. The proposed additions identify which types of zoning districts can accommodate sexually-oriented businesses.

Because of free-expression protections, federal courts have concluded that communities with zoning regulations must find areas where such businesses can exist. But communities can control placement of these businesses through zoning to control negative secondary effects on other properties.

The rules also would prohibit these businesses from setting up shop within certain distances of sensitive land uses. An adult-themed business could not operate within 500 feet of a residential area or licensed day care center. They also could not locate within 1,000 feet of a place of worship, a public library, a school serving youth ages 17 and younger or another sexually oriented business.

The council’s next regular meeting is planned for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, July 21.

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Judge allows adult store owners' suit to proceed

CAMDEN, N.J. — A Superior Court judge refused to dismiss alleged civil rights violations from a lawsuit filed by the owners of an adult video and novelty business against the township and its zoning officer this week. The judge did, however, dismiss claims for punitive damages and claims of financial detriment filed by the business.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in September or October.

Partners 70 tried to open a shop at Route 70 and Kenwood Drive near the entrance to a residential neighborhood in 2004, but was refused a building permit. The business sued the township in 2005.

Superior Court Judge Michael Kassel on Thursday disposed of some of the complaint against the township, but ruled the heart of the lawsuit — counts related to alleged civil rights violations — would remain intact for the upcoming trial.

The judge said the court should have the benefit of hearing expert witnesses' testimony before determining the merit of the civil rights allegations, said Dennis Oury, a Hackensack attorney representing Partners 70. The business partnership is led by James Restaino, a Union County man who owns and operates similar businesses in towns around the state.

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