EXCLUSIVE: Columbia’s lone adult shop focus of hearing

dhinshaw@thestate.comNovember 16, 2013 

Columbia City Council expected to adopt tougher regulations intended to curtail whree sexually oriented businesses may operate. Expecting council to alter some of the restrictions adopted just last week when the city reacted to pressure from residence upset with the approval of Taboo, a sex shop on Devine Street.

FILE PHOTOGRAPH — The State Buy Photo

— Columbia’s only X-rated shop will make the case this week that its business license should be renewed because restrictions placed on the adult business two years ago have created a financial hardship.

Representatives of Taboo will appear at City Hall before a city-hired hearing officer at 10 a.m. Thursday in an attempt to stay open past Dec. 31, when its license to do business expires.

In a statement released Friday by store manager Larry Boyer, the company maintained the city’s 2011 law governing sexually oriented businesses created a hardship because it prohibited the selling of adult merchandise during “peak business hours,” after midnight.

Taboo is the city’s only licensed adult business, said Roger Myers, Columbia business license administrator. As such, it cannot be open between midnight and 6 a.m.

The store, set along a redeveloping corridor, not far from the trendy Whole Foods grocery, sells lingerie, X-rated movies and sex toys, or “adult novelties.”

Taboo falls under regulations passed by City Council within days of its opening two years ago at 4716 Devine St. In addition to addressing how adult businesses operate, the law set out a land-use zoning requirement it did not meet, according to news accounts at the time.

The city gave the non-conforming business a two-year grace period, also providing an opportunity for “one or more extensions” if the store could prove financial hardship.

That makes Thursday’s hearing a first for the city, finance director Jan Alonzo said.

She said hearing officer Malane Pike will have 10 days to rule on whether the law has created a hardship for Taboo.

Alonzo declined to release the company’s application for an extension to its business license, citing “pending litigation.” Councilwoman Leona Plaugh said it would be inappropriate to release documents because they contain private financial information provided by the store.

The store must provide “evidence of purchase and improvement costs, income earned and lost, depreciations, and costs of relocation” as proof of hardship, the law states.

“The hardship extension shall be granted only upon a showing that the nonconforming sexually oriented business is unable to recoup its investments, made prior to the effective date of this Article, in its current location unless the hardship extension is granted,” it says.

Plaugh said she did not know whether the hearing officer would allow public comment but that, as the area’s representative on City Council, she would attend and be prepared to speak.

“This is not a hearing on its location,” Plaugh said.

“This is a hearing on whether it is, in fact, a financial hardship.”

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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