Thursday, March 23, 2000

Hustler store plans delayed

Board wants more details on merchandise

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — Jimmy Flynt walked into the Monroe Planning Commission on Wednesday expecting to get at least preliminary approval of plans for a Hustler store. He left no closer to his goal.

        Commissioners delayed action on the Hustler site plan until additional details are provided in writing on the adult merchandise to be sold.

        After the meeting, Mr. Flynt and his attorney blasted commissioners' demand to know the quantity of adult merchandise the store will carry. He called that demand unconstitutional and said he will discuss a potential lawsuit with his attorney, H. Louis Sirkin, today.

        Mr. Flynt, brother of Hustler Publisher Larry Flynt, is heading up a project to build a Hustler store at Interstate 75 and Ohio 63. The site is next to Bristol's Show Club and Revue, an exotic dance club.

        Mr. Flynt has said the store will carry sexually explicit videos and sex toys, along with mainstream merchandise.

        Mr. Flynt said he's still preparing to proceed.

        “I'm confident we'll get started right away,” he said. “I expected it to go a little better in there so we could at least start excavating. But we'll get in there in a few days.”

        Mr. Sirkin said the building would be completed by July.

        City officials have previously said the store would likely violate zoning laws because it is within 1,000 feet of another sexually oriented business and a motel.

        During the meeting when commissioners questioned Mr. Sirkin about the store's content, he said there would be some adult merchandise, but most would be general merchandise.

        Mr. Sirkin said city code dictated that a significant and substantial portion of stock must be devoted to adult goods for the operation to meet definitions of an adult business.

        “There will not be a section devoted to adult merchandise, and it will not be a substantial portion of the products,” Mr. Sirkin said. “It will not be in violation of your present code.”

        City Law Director Philip Callahan recommended the commission give the applicants a chance to file complete, written details before deciding the issue.

        When commission Chairman James Collins told Mr. Sirkin to submit that information, which Jay Stewart, city zoning enforcement officer had twice requested, Mr. Sirkin objected strenuously.

        “It seems to me that indicates prior restraint,” Mr. Sirkin said. “The store is not open. Your questions indicate this is an unconstitutional ordinance.”

        After the meeting, Mr. Sirkin said the city is treating the request from this business differently than others. He said if city officials would look at site plans from other retail businesses, it's unlikely they would find any that had been asked to specify the products to be sold.

        “We intend not to stand for this. We will fight,” Mr. Sirkin said. “Do you think they ask gas stations how many candy bars and how many bottles of pop they're going to have? I don't believe that's the case.”

        Mr. Sirkin said the site plans, which were filed with the city March 1, contained detailed and precise information, and Mr. Flynt should “absolutely be granted to build that building.”

        The Rev. Terry Ball of First Church of God in Monroe, whose congregation has opposed the Hustler plan, said he was pleased with the commission's action. Mr. Ball said he was not disappointed that few opponents showed up, because the meeting was not a public forum. When public hearings are held, the opponents will be there in large numbers, he said.

        “We're pleased that the planning commission is requiring Mr. Flynt to dot all his i's and cross all his t's,” said Mr. Ball, who has vowed to work to keep the store out of Monroe.

        On Tuesday, Monroe City Council will hold a public hearing on proposed zoning code changes recommended by the Community Defense Council. That Arizona-based firm specializes in helping protect communities from what it says are the ill effects of sexually oriented businesses.

        The proposed changes include allowing sexually oriented businesses as a permitted use, not a conditional use as they are now. The permitted use eliminates any discretion by zoning or city officials in zoning those businesses. Such businesses now can locate only in four commercial areas, primarily along major thoroughfares. That would not change.


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