The most explicit merchandise is back off the shelves at the Taboo sex shop after City Hall on Thursday wrote tickets that threaten the owner and employees with up to 30 days in jail per day.
“I’m not willing to take that chance,” Taboo the Couples Superstore owner Jeff White said Friday after returning the store to a general retail operation as it had been for weeks during the ongoing battle with Columbia officials who say Taboo is illegal at its Devine Street location.
Managers were ticketed for operating a sexual device shop without a proper business license. Employees were cited for working at such a shop without proper employee licenses. Those were the first citations issued by the city in the years-long tussle.
A Columbia business license inspector wrote the tickets at 6:50 p.m. Thursday. The violations call for a $158.75 bond, but under city law, they could face a fine of up to $500 and a maximum of 30 days in jail per day.
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White said he was surprised to be ticketed, especially after his attorney, Tommy Goldstein, told him that an administrative challenge of the zoning of the property would insulate the business from any citation until the Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals heard the case. A zoning board hearing is scheduled in April, White said.
Taboo pulled its anatomically explicit merchandise from its shelves in February in an effort to stay open as a general retailer. White disclosed to The State newspaper in an article published Thursday that he had restocked his shelves based on his attorney’s advice.
“It’s no longer an adult store,” White said Friday. The merchandise for sale includes lingerie, lubricants, lotions and other products available at general retail stores, he said. White said he is considering renaming Taboo the “First Amendment Store” to emphasize his right to operate an adult business. He also is willing to repaint the building a less eye-popping color than the bright purplish-red it is now.
“I’m not going to yo-yo back and forth,” White said of his merchandise. “I’m going to operate as a general retailer until a judge either issues me a stay (permission to continue as a sex shop) or a court grants an order allowing us to operate as an adult store.”