Friday, March 7, 2003

Shed giant sign, county tells Hustler

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] The Hustler sign Hamilton County officials ordered removed is on an office building within yards of Carthage, just north of Seymour Avenue interchange off Interstate 75.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
The Tristate's largest sexually oriented business - Hustler of Hollywood - is being told to take it off.

Hamilton County officials are ordering the removal of a store advertising banner, which simply states the store's name, from a building just off Interstate 75.

It's the latest round in the long-running battle between Jimmy Flynt, owner of the adult store, and Sharonville-based Citizens for Community Values (CCV), whose supporters recently complained to zoning officials about the giant banner and continue to successfully lobby area billboard companies to deny the store any outdoor advertising in the Tristate.

Flynt - brother of Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt and business partner in the company's international adult-entertainment, retail and publishing empire - manages the Hustler of Hollywood store at the I-75 and Ohio 63 interchange in Monroe. It was opened in late 2000 as a prototype for a national chain of Hustler retail outlets.

The store's leasing contracts for two I-75 billboards owned by the Baton Rouge, La.-based Lamar Outdoor Advertising were not renewed last fall, after company officials said they were persuaded by CCV that such advertising ran counter to Greater Cincinnati community standards.

Flynt said he was then forced to advertise with a makeshift banner tied to the side of a nearly empty office building within yards of I-75 in Carthage, just north of the Seymour Avenue interchange at 125 City Center Drive.

"It's the same old story with the CCV. They forced Lamar, and other billboard companies, to stop doing business with me even though I do business with Lamar and other companies everywhere else in the country but I can't here in Cincinnati," said Flynt, who plans to remove his sign.

Phil Burress, president of the anti-pornography CCV, said the Hustler banner "is more a sign of desperation than advertising by the Flynts."

"The offensive nature of anything that represents the Flynts is opposite of the values of Cincinnati. We're trying to protect the families of Cincinnati and they are not welcomed here," said Burress.

The City Center Drive building is owned by Cincinnati-based MSV Properties; and though officials with the firm declined to comment, Hamilton County zoning inspector Mike Burman has told them they will soon face fines of a $100 a day if they do not remove the Hustler advertising banner, which is visible only to northbound I-75 traffic.

Burman said the banner violates seven county zoning laws pertaining to outdoor advertising, including: advertising without a permit; posting an oversized banner; advertising too close to the highway; covering up a building's windows; and advertising an off-premise business, which is only allowed on billboards.

Burman acknowledged that CCV supporters lodged complaints about the Hustler sign, but said "no matter whose sign it was, if they are violating the law ... we'd be going after them just as hard."

He said he has issued the two required warnings to officials of MSV Properties and now the company will begin to be fined for the misdemeanor infraction unless Hustler removes the banner.

Flynt said he will soon be opening a Hustler Entertainment Inc. office in the two-story building to handle business operations for his two area Hustler stores. Flynt also operates a smaller adult store in downtown Cincinnati on Elm Street, but unlike the larger Monroe store it does not carry explicit adult videos and DVDs.

Flynt said is undecided whether to pursue legal action against billboard companies.

He conceded that having no outdoor advertising, especially along the heavily traveled I-75 corridor, cuts into his ability to attract transient customers. But he added, "as far as the local customers, they already know where we are."


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