COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Columbia adult store will be closing its doors within the coming weeks.
The city has been battling the owner of Taboo, the adult store inside the former Taco Bell on Devine Street, since it opened in 2011, arguing that the store’s products violate city ordinances.
On Tuesday, a special city council meeting took place to discuss the owner’s appeal for a business license. In a unanimous vote, the council approved the motion to deny a business license to Taboo, which means it will be closing its doors in the coming days to weeks.
The business license division pointed out that Taboo hasn’t had a lawful license since 2014 and has continued to operate in violation of the city’s ordinances for years.
Taboo’s owner applied to run Taboo as a general business in October. That license was also denied. The license division asked the council to deny a license saying the owner lied on the license application saying it opened in September of 2019 and that it lied about its operations, with the division’s lawyer saying that the store has continued to sell unlawful adult projects.
Taboo’s owner was fined over $28,000 in July after finding the store in contempt of the laws.
Councilman Moe Baddourah of District III said today’s motion upheld that fine and that he hopes this is the end to a battle that has been going on for too long.
“It’s amazing to hear how many appeals and hearings have been going on the past 9 years. It’s important to understand that the staff and city council, especially myself has been doing everything we can to move this forward and close this business because it’s affecting our neighborhoods and our city but also it does not belong where the neighborhood is designed to be,” Baddourah said.
In 2014, Taboo’s owner Jeff White filed a suit accusing the city of shifting and arbitrary tactics against a business selling legal products protected by the first amendment.
However, in 2016 a federal judge ruled that Taboo was violating business rules and had 7 days to close or face fines of 500 dollars a day.
The license division said that Taboo claimed to stop selling unlawful products in 2016, but this wasn’t the case. The business license division’s lawyer presented receipts and photographic evidence to support this at the hearing today.
The store manager of Taboo, Cheyenne Wiseman, was present at the hearing, but White and lawyers were not.
“We were given a business license then all of the sudden we don’t have one anymore. The ordinance had changed immediately thereafter, and I think it’s nonsense that we weren’t grandfathered in,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman spoke with White after the vote. She said White wasn’t surprised by today’s outcome, but he is disappointed.
It’s not clear what the exact timeline is for the store closing, but one Council member says it should be in the next few weeks.
“It’s important that we close this chapter and move on,” Baddourah said. “Also to carry whatever plans we have for that corridor to bring business that support the neighborhood. This business, in particular, did not support the neighborhood.”
Councilman Baddourah said that the City is still in negotiations with Taboo’s owner of whether to buy the owner out of their lease.
“As of today, as the Council approved the $28,000 fine, they have to pay it until we come up with a different agreement or negotiation,” Baddourah said.