Friday, November 05, 1999

Flynt vows to remain downtown

Race Street store ordered closed today

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Three days after his grand opening, Larry Flynt is under a court order to close his new adult bookstore today because it may violate terms of his lease. But the Hustler magazine publisher says it won't be long until he's open for business again at another location.

        And this time, Mr. Flynt says, his store will be stocked with the kind of explicit videos that led to obscenity charges earlier this year.

        “We're not going away,” Mr. Flynt said Thursday after losing the court battle over his Cincinnati store. “We'll go from building to building to building if we have to.”

        He said he plans to open his next store on a property in Butler County, just north of the Hamilton County border.

        Although he would not give an exact location, Mr. Flynt said he recently made an offer for the property and could open within four months.

        Mr. Flynt said he chose the Butler County site because he could sell explicit videos there without violating terms of a deal he made earlier this year with Hamilton County prosecutors.

        As part of the deal, Mr. Flynt's Hustlerstore corporation pleaded guilty to pandering obscenity and agreed to stop selling explicit videos in Hamil ton County.

        Mr. Flynt said his new store would be under no such restriction across the county line.

        But Butler County officials say Mr. Flynt and his videos are not welcome there.

        “Tell him to bring his lawyer with him,” said Butler County Prosecutor John Holcomb.

        Despite his plans for Butler County, Mr. Flynt said he still wants to operate a store in downtown Cincinnati. “I want a presence downtown,” he said. “I don't like to lose.”

        He lost Thursday, however, when his store on Race Street was ordered closed after a daylong hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

        Judge Mark Schweikert made the ruling after Mr. Flynt's landlord, Barry Rand man, testified that he never gave permission to lease the building to the Hustlerstore.

        Mr. Randman said the store's reputation for controversy would destroy his plans to renovate the building's upper floors as luxury apartments.

        “It would jeopardize the entire project,” said Mr. Randman, who paid about $585,000 for the property. “No one wants to live in a building known as the Hustlerbuilding.

        “I'm going to have a financial disaster.”

        He said Mr. Flynt improperly subleased the first floor from the original tenant, Metro Records. Mr. Randman's attorney, Phillip Smith, said the store owners deceived Mr. Randman and moved into the building “under cover of darkness.”

        He said the store generated more negative publicity Wednesday night when Cincinnati police raided it to determine if it violated the city's sexually oriented business ordinance.

        The ordinance states that a city license is needed if sexually oriented material accounts for a significant or substantial amount of the store's sales or inventory.

        City prosecutors say police will make that decision early next week.

        Mr. Flynt's attorney, H. Louis Sirkin, said the police went into the store merely to evaluate the inventory. He said the store is a legal business, and there is no evidence it would hurt property values or scare off prospective tenants.

        “It's an improvement,” Mr. Sirkin said. “They've substantially brightened the area. They've brought decent, law-abiding citizens to shop in that area.”

        Judge Schweikert, however, concluded that the lease gives the landlord the right to approve any change in tenants.

        The judge granted a preliminary injunction against the store, which bars it from doing business at least until another hearing is held Jan. 5.

        Mr. Sirkin said he will appeal the decision this week in hopes of reopening the store pending the Jan. 5 hearing.

        No matter what happens, Mr. Flynt said he will find a building somewhere downtown.

        But his main store, he said, will be the one he plans to open in Butler County. He said it would be a large “deluxe store” like the Hustler Hollywoodoutlet he opened last year in Los Angeles.

        That store carries adult videos, magazines, sex toys, lingerie and other sexually oriented items.

        Mr. Flynt said it would take about four months to build the store once he acquires the property.

        “They're not going to get rid of us,” he said.


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