The almost-two-year battle between the city of Pevely and the Pure Pleasure Boutique (PPB) is about to reach its resolution. During this dispute, the business has operated without a license and without water service, receiving a number of citations from the city. After a trial early this month, a US District judge will decide if the city has to issue the retailer a business license:
City officials opposed having an adult store in a building classified for commercial use. Adult stores are only allowed in industrial zones in Pevely.
The city also says the store violates state law because it operates within 1,000 feet of a church and of a school, according to court documents.
PPB contends that is not a “sexually oriented business” according to state and city statutes, based on what it sells (lotions, lubes, lingerie items and lightweight toys). Pevely strengthened its ordinance after it received a business license application from PPB, but PPB says this should change not apply to them since they requested a license under the old rule.
According to court filings available through Pacer, PPB, in addition to claiming they are not a sexually oriented business, say that the city’s actions and failure to follow its own rules violate the 1st Amendment and the business’ rights to due process and equal protection. One of PPB’s contentions is that people from the city are categorizing them based solely on assumptions of what the business sells, since none of them have ever been to the store. Witness this slightly-awkward exchange at the trial (from the Complainant’s Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, p. 10):
When asked what he believed Complainant ’s store sold that ran afoul of these ordinances, Mr . Welch acknowledged that he really did not know, but that he thought that some packaging might possibly have a depiction of “ specified sexual activities” and that a “butt plug” might also fit the ordinances’ definitions, but could not say how. When asked how a “butt plug” would differ from an enema device or a suppository, Mr . Welch stated the “ context of use” rather than the ordinances language or the nature of the object itself
The city’s main response is based on a technicality, albeit one that seems significant. It argues that the city filled out its paperwork wrong. For one, it applied for a license as “2302 N. Truman Ent Mgmt, LLC, d/b/a Pure Pleasure.” The city states that one cannot just abbreviate “Entertainment” with “Ent,” as the business did, because state law requires an exact name. The city also says that the relevant electronic searches can’t anything but what is exactly inputted. Now, in this era of Google, you or I could find this business despite such an abbreviation, but I fully believe that government databases would have such a handicap.
The city also says that “Pure Pleasure” is not a lawfully registered name. “Pure Pleasure Boutique” is, but that’s not what’s on PPB’s application (the part after “d/b/a”). If the court upholds this objection, the city will have been ruled to have lawfully denied PPB’s application, and the business would have to reapply for a license under the new, stricter city ordinance (PPB argues that the new ordinance is against state law, and that the store might still not meet the threshold for a sexually oriented business under the new law).
The city also contends that its zoning rules are legitimate, and that the business is free to open in an industrial zone (a much more secluded location than the site in question, which is in view of Interstate 55). The city does not get into the details of why PPB is a sexually oriented business; it seems to just assume that as fact in its brief.
I could see this case being thrown out on the incorrect name issue, but if that argument is rejected, I think PPB wins on the question of whether it violates Pevely zoning laws. Of course, I am not a lawyer.
In a subsequent post, I will discuss my thoughts on the issue of adult businesses in the county, and look at recent county council efforts to enact relevant regulations.