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Adult video fight heats up in Cherry Hill; Partners 70 Wants to Open an Adult Shop

Cherry Hill, NJ- A business partnership fighting to sell sex-themed DVDs and adult novelties in a Cherry Hill store along Route 70 got permission in Superior Court Tuesday to amend its lawsuit against the township.

Partners 70 will add two counts to its ongoing litigation with Cherry Hill. It alleges changes the township made in March to its zoning regulation for sexually-oriented businesses are unconstitutional and a violation of its civil rights.

Partners 70 wants to open an adult shop at 101 Route 70 East immediately in front of a residential neighborhood.

The business is led by Union County accountant Jim Restaino, who operates adult stores throughout the state.

Restaino is using the same legal argument against ordinances the township passed in 2004, 2005 and 2006 to restrict sexually-oriented shops to the township’s industrial sections.

Partners 70 claims the restrictions are overly broad and deny people access in Cherry Hill to sexual material that’s constitutionally protected free speech.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Superior Court Judge Michael Kassel permitted Cherry Hill lawyers to take another deposition from Restaino, who has claimed the township’s ordinances have caused him to lose considerable money in legal fees and lost profits. Depositions were initially taken from Restaino in September and were supposed to be completed by Dec. 4, but the judge granted the extension because new information was recently entered into the record.

The township takes issue with Restaino’s assertions of severe financial loss, said Richard Goldstein, an attorney representing Cherry Hill.

This fall, both sides gathered about 10 depositions from expert witnesses and key players, including Mayor Bernie Platt and members of township council, said Sylvia Hall, a lawyer for Partners 70.

“The mayor will continue to fight against the invasion of deviant businesses and the sale of explicit material from corrupting our strong neighborhoods and family values in Cherry Hill,” said township spokesman Dan Keashen.

Partners 70 first sued the township in early 2005 and the case made it to trial in June 2006. But a court decision was never rendered because both sides opted to try to settle the matter.

Under the consent order, the store’s front half would have sold regular videos and DVDs while the back half would have sold sex-themed merchandise, according to documents in the case file. The store’s adult section would have had a separate, locked entrance. Store clerks would buzz customers in only after viewing them through a surveillance camera to make sure they were of legal age to enter. No viewing booths would have been in the store.

The township’s insurance carrier agreed to pay the business partnership $225,000 to settle the lawsuit, according to documents.

The township, however, never signed the consent order.

Rumors of an impending settlement created an uproar among Cherry Hill residents.

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