The XBIZ Weekly Retail Round-Up

Ericka Jensen

Local Citizen Withdraws Request for Adult Store Zoning

ROCKFORD, Ill. — A Winnebago County resident withdrew zoning requests for an adult-oriented business Tuesday after months of protest from nearby businesses and other residents.

According to zoning materials, the retailer-to-be planned the opening of a store called Sweet Dreams. The shop would have offered therapeutic massage and nude modeling.

A special-use permit is required because the store’s proposed location is within 1,000 feet of a residential area. The store also needed its zoning to be changed from C-2, a limited commercial district, to C-3, a general zoning area.

A local newspaper reported that an email had been sent to the Zoning Department withdrawing the application.

The prospect of an adult-oriented store enraged nearby businesses, including the YWCA of Rockford and Rockford College.

The request, filed in May, faced an uphill battle from the start when city staff recommended denying the special-use permit and zoning change. Staff members said the establishment wouldn’t be a good fit for the neighborhood. Staffers also received dozens of letters opposing the project.

The resident also was cited for opening the store before obtaining the zoning authorization. A hearing on the violation is scheduled for July 23.

For more information, click here . IOWA

New Zoning Challenge for Lingerie Boutique

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Doctor John's Lingerie Boutique took its arguments that a Sioux City zoning ordinance is unconstitutional before a federal judge today.

Doctor John's is challenging the city's ordinance defining adult book and video stores. Attorneys for the business claim simply that the law is unconstitutional. The city has said the store falls under those definitions and is subject to zoning and licensing requirements passed after construction of the store began.

Known as the "25 percent rule," the city's ordinance, passed in 2004, defines an adult book/video store as any business that has more than 25 percent of its floor space or merchandise value devoted to or generates more than 25 percent of its revenues from adult printed or video materials.

At the conclusion of the trial, U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett will decide if that zoning law is constitutional.

Doctor John's sued in December 2003, claiming that the city was amending its ordinances specifically to keep him from opening his store after he had obtained proper building permits for the building. Bennett granted the owner an injunction, allowing the store to open.

The trial is scheduled to last up to four days.

For more information, click here .


Adult Retailer Drops Lawsuit Against Town

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A porn purveyor dropped a lawsuit meant to force Garfield Township to accept his adult sexually-oriented business near a church and residential neighborhood.

"It's a great day for the citizens of Garfield Township," said the township Supervisor.

The retailer, who operates Fantasies Unlimited adult stores, wanted to peddle a variety of sexually explicit magazines, videos, novelties and other items. He never asked the township for a zoning permit but instead went directly to federal court with a suit that alleged the township's 11-year-old adult-oriented business zoning ordinance was unconstitutional.

Township officials quickly realized the retailer had a case and before the end of May updated the ordinance. The new ordinance changed the approval process, but kept several restrictions, including a 750-foot setback from churches, schools and residential neighborhoods.

A church and residential property are located within 750 feet of Fantasies Unlimited.

The township also has shifted some other restrictions from its zoning department to a new adult-business licensing ordinance that falls under the township's police powers. Township officials also added new requirements, such as background investigations on all employees and owners.

The township supervisor said "cutting edge" ordinances forced the retailer to drop his lawsuit. For more information, click here .


Businessman Buys Site of Proposed Topless Club

WINDHAM, N.H. — A Salem businessman is buying the proposed site of a high-end topless club to insure the business never opens in a move that has drawn praise from local officials.

A Florida developer submitted plans last year to turn the property into a high-end gentlemen's club featuring female topless dancers and private booths. Though those plans were later withdrawn, the developer repeatedly insisted that he planned to buy the property and turn it into a gentlemen's club.

The pending owner of the property operates two car dealerships in the neighboring town of Salem. He said the last thing most people want to see is a topless club with flashing lights greeting them as they cross the Salem line into Windham.

The city’s planning director said developers who expressed interest in the area became reluctant to locate businesses there once the plans for the topless club became public.

“We are indebted for what this man is doing," said the City Planning Director. “There are a lot of businesses that would find it desirable to be located next to or near a [car] dealership. On the contrary, most businesses would refrain from locating next to a gentleman's club."

The sale price of the property was not disclosed, but the businessman said he expects to close the land deal in September.

For more information, click here .


Christian Activist Groups Join Suit Against Topless Bar

QUAKERTOWN, Pa. — A Catholic-centered anti-pornography group and an association of 28 churches have introduced a motion for intervention in an appeal from a topless bar, hoping to become parties to the lawsuit.

The president of the anti-porn group said becoming a party would give the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas an opportunity to consider how the topless bar affects the community.

”The secondary effects of sexually oriented businesses have been documented for years," said the group’s president. “When they come into communities crime increases, residential properties lose value, sexual deviancy goes up and prostitution becomes an issue."

The topless club allegedly began as a standard sports bar, but when it opened its doors on Dec. 14, residents discovered that it featured topless dancing.

"Municipalities are not familiar with state laws of this sort. Municipal action can basically shut down establishments like this," said the attorney for the group.

With its liquor license pending, the club found buried in its municipal agreement a clause that Milford Township could revoke its permit if the establishment violated state law. State law prohibits nude dancing at bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) establishments. Even though the club originally lied to public officials about its intention to open a topless bar, it filed a lawsuit against the township, arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.

For more information, click here .