Taboo adult shop loses bid to stay open on Devine Street

The only shop in Columbia selling X-rated merchandise lost a bid Monday to stay open beyond Dec. 31.

Taboo faces closure after a ruling that the store at 4716 Devine St. failed to demonstrate financial hardship that would allow it to stay in operation another year.

The extension sought is allowed under controls on such operations adopted by city officials in 2011, after a furor over Taboo’s opening in a commercial corridor with popular groceries and restaurants.

But Taboo’s operators failed to convince a city-hired hearing officer that they needed more time to recover their investment.

Financial records submitted by its owners contained “substantial inaccuracies,” while other material “failed to provide substantiation” that deficits persist, hearing officer Malane Pike said in a decision submitted to city officials.

At a Nov. 21 hearing, Taboo owner Jeffrey White said he is $271,000 in the red, but that included $230,000 in fees he wants for himself and a brother. He also said the store was turning a small profit recently.

Taboo officials offered no hint Monday whether they will fight the shutdown looming.

“We’re tired of the city bullying us,” store manager Larry Boyer said. “That’s all we have to say at this time.”

White has suggested he may switch to featuring items of a less controversial nature — lingerie, lotions and films instead of hardcore wares such as sex toys — to match what other shops sell without challenge.

A legal challenge to the city’s controls on sexually oriented businesses that would allow Taboo to continue operation without changes is too expensive, he said at the hearing.