FRESNO, Calif. — Hustler Hollywood filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against the city of Fresno, alleging that officials amended zoning regulations for adult businesses after it received correspondence from the retailer that it was planning to open a store in town.
Hustler Hollywood, which signed a 10-year lease for the commercial space, claims that the store’s opening remains in a “state of limbo” after it was “arbitrarily, capriciously and erroneously classified” as an adult bookstore.
The city, according to the complaint, enacted a new version of regulations for retailers after it received an inquiry from Hustler Hollywood counsel.
Fresno’s new version broadened the kinds of merchandise that would trigger a 25 percent threshold for regulation from books, magazines and periodicals to any merchandise deemed to be “adult material.”
The new version also reflected a “new, stringent” display space requirement that had not existed prior to the amended code.
According to the suit, the City of Fresno “collectively targeted [Hustler Hollywood’s] proposed First Amendment-protected business by taking actions specifically designed to preclude [it] from opening and operating its desired establishment.”
“In their rush to censor plaintiff and to mute plaintiff's speech, defendants have unconstitutionally prevented plaintiff's ability to operate its business in the City of Fresno,” the suit said.
Industry attorney Paul Cambria, who represents Hustler Hollywood in the suit, indicated that the city’s flip-flop on city code within a day of correspondence over the property was suspect.
“Our lawsuit alleges bad faith on the part of the city mainly by refusing to render a decision on our request and submission, and also by telling us what their standard was one day — which was relied on — without telling us they intended to and did change it the very next day,” Cambria told XBIZ.
“Further, the restriction they have put in place is unconstitutional in that as little as 1 percent of adult product would be classified as a total adult use.”
Hustler Hollywood’s suit asks for declaratory relief, injunctive relief, unspecified damages and attorney’s fees.
In a similar case, Hustler Hollywood, which operates about 20 stores in the U.S., filed suit last month in Indianapolis, alleging that the city incorrectly classified the store as an adult-oriented business and denied permits that it needed for it to open.
Fresno’s spokesman, Mark Standriff, declined comment to XBIZ, saying the city doesn't comment on litigation matters.