Owner: Columbia’s X-rated Taboo closing Dec. 31

dhinshaw@thestate.comDecember 5, 2013 

Taboo, the city’s only X-rated shop, is closing after a city of Columbia decision not to extend its business license.

Owner Jeff White said he was notifying his four employees and putting up store closing signs Thursday.

The shop, near the intersection of Devine Street and Rosewood Drive, will close Dec. 31.

“The plans are to close down the store and move out,” he said.

“I’m going to walk away from the lease.”

The store opened two years ago and was granted a business license before Columbia City Council rushed to change city law to make its location illegal.

An agreement between the city and White allowed him to stay open for two years to recoup his investment.

However, a city-hired hearing officer determined Monday that White did not demonstrate the financial hardship warranting an extension beyond this year.

Jean Moore, active in her Hampton Ridge Neighborhood Association, said “delighted” wasn’t a strong enough word to describe her reaction to White’s news.

“We were just highly opposed to it in such a high-traffic area,” she said.

Moore would like to see antique stores, gift shops, sporting goods or men’s clothing on that end of Devine Street.

City Councilwoman Leona Plaugh said she’s seeing a lot of interest in the commercial corridors that intersect near the new Whole Foods.

A city redevelopment plan for the area should be complete just after the new year, Plaugh said, with a likely focus on making the area comfortable for customers who walk and bicycle.

“It’s a crossroads,” Plaugh said. “It’s one of our major entrances into the city. So I think you’re going to see more growth.”

It was into that setting that White two years ago opened his X-rated “superstore,” selling sex toys and videos. The storefront at 4716 Devine St., was then a legal location for a sexually oriented business, which seemed to catch city leaders by surprise.

Plaugh stressed that the city’s subsequent changes to the land-use zoning law provided alternate locations for adult businesses protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech – but that spot, near Rosewood Drive, was not one of them.

In fact, White said he spent most of Wednesday scouting for a new location.

He found one legal site in unincorporated Richland County, he said, but the landowner was unwilling to rent to him. “So I’m done,” he said.

White expressed bitterness with the way the city’s business license office handled his case.

“I’m moving out of my house and closing down Taboo and getting the hell out,” he said.

After the city’s Nov. 21 hearing on White’s business license, he suggested he might just restock his store to sell lingerie, lotions and other items that would not fall into the category of a sexually oriented business.

Brian Cook, the city’s zoning administrator, said any new business would have to go through the process of zoning approval.

“At that point, we would evaluate it to see if it falls into the category of a sexually oriented business,” depending on the percentage and value of X-rated inventory, Cook said.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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