Owner of Devine Street sex shop appears in federal court

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The owner of the sex shop on Devine Street on the verge of closing appeared in federal court Friday to testify in his case against the City of Columbia.

Jeff White filed his suit against the city just shortly before Christmas. The suit alleges the city tried 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."

The business, Taboo, opened in December 2011 to the dismay and criticism of city and neighborhood officials. Critics said the store would only encourage crime in the area.

In his remarks, White says the city cannot prove the store created crime and they have only held back business development.

The suit also claims the City of Columbia "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."

City attorneys, led by Scott Bergthold, tried to downplay the First Amendment claim. He says the city provided White with a list of 45 sites where he could relocate. The city says it makes no difference whether those sites are actually available to buy or lease.

White further defended the store and claimed some of the items sold at Taboo were also sold at Target and Spencer's.

"Some citizens have spoken up because theyhave problems with you know anything dealing with sex possibly," said Taboo supporterEllen Cooper. "I'm not sure what they're talking about. Iknow there was talk today about the thriving restaurants," Cooper said. "I'veactually been in the area going over to Whole Foods. That's it. Whole Foods isthriving right incredibly close to Taboo."

White is now seeking a temporary injunction to keep Taboo open.

Friday's hearing lasted more than six hours.

Judge Terry Wooten will decide the request for an injunction.

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