N.J. Adult Store Operator Wins Legal Fees

Rhett Pardon

EAST HANOVER, N.J. — A company that sought to operate the Essex Adult Emporium was awarded $63,000 in attorneys' fees and costs for expert witnesses this month as part of a five-year battle to open up a store in East Hanford.

A company known as GED signed a 15-year lease in 2009, but zoning regulations in East Hanover had prevented the company from obtaining a permit in 2010 for sales of adult DVDs, clothing, lingerie and accessories.

The East Hanover zoning ordinance required a 1,000-foot buffer around sexually oriented businesses, but in 2011 it was ruled unconstitutional, with a judge saying the ordinance effectively barred adult stores in the township.

The court said free-speech considerations dictated that the township find a way to allow at least a limited number of adult stores.

The law now requires a 50-foot buffer around businesses that are sexually oriented, but GED is challenging that rule as well despite abandoning plans to open the location.

GED later applied for the award of damages, $77,795 in attorneys' fees and $14,375 in experts' fees. In a mixed ruling, the court agreed to award $1 in nominal damages, $59,744.34 in attorneys' fees and costs and $3,325 in experts' fees.