Devine St. sex shop files civil suit against city

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The owner of a sexually-explicit business on the verge of closing has filed a civil suit in federal court asking for an injunction against the City of Columbia.

The suit, which was filed Friday, accuses the city of trying to "thwart or prevent plaintiff's operation of his business," and asks for a temporary and permanent injunction "requiring the City of Columbia to issue the 2014 and subsequent years' business license and to cease interfering in the operation of the plaintiff's business."

To the dismay of some city officials and business owners, Taboo opened at 4716 Devine Street in December, 2011.

At the time the city issued a business license to owner Jeff White, the business met all requirements for a sexually-oriented business.

But, shortly after Taboo's controversial opening the city made changes to its rules regarding adult businesses, expanding the buffer zone between schools, places of worship, homes or public parks and businesses from 500 feet to 700 feet. That change meant Taboo was no longer in compliance with city standards.

The City of Columbia granted a "grandfathered" business license to run as the business is currently running until the end of 2013.

In late 2013, a city hearing officer denied White's complaint that the new rule created an economic hardship for a business like his.

White told WIS in December he had decided to close the business before the city-imposed January 31 deadline.

On Friday, a suit filed on the behalf of Cricket Store 17, L.L.C., indicates White intends to fight the city.

"... the City of Columbia has engaged in a series of shifting, arbitrary, and dilatory tactics to prevent vesting of the business license because the City objects to the plaintiff's use of the property to sell lawful adult material even though such material is protected by the First Amendment," wrote North Charleston attorney Thomas R. Goldstein in the complaint.

According to the complaint, the city amended zoning ordinances on December 29, 2011 and again on November 13, 2012, "to restrict the plaintiff's right to disseminate a lawful message, and to shut down the plaintiff's business."

The complaint requests a jury trial to declare the city's ordinances regulating adult speech as invalid under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and actual, incidental, consequential and punitive damages.

Goldstein indicated he was in contact and in negotiations with the city, but the two parties have been unable "to resolve the entire contents of the motion through negotiation."

"The parties did agree, however, that the City of Columbia would limit enforcement action to the issuance of municipal summons until such time as the Court could schedule a hearing on the matters raised by this motion," wrote Goldstein.

According to the complaint, Taboo is the only "single outlet for the dissemination of lawful adult speech" in the city.

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