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After Many years of Court battles adult bookstore, The Gift Spot to close

MARSHALL, Ill. — It took four mayors, more than half a million dollars, and the combined efforts of ministers and police, but after two decades, the adult bookstore battle is finished.

“It means we have a much better community to live,” Mayor Ken Smith said of The Gift Spot’s agreement to close its doors by Sunday.

Smith and city attorney Richard Bernardoni announced Wednesday afternoon at a media conference that an out-of-court settlement has been reached between the city of Marshall and Illinois One News, Inc. and 1002 North Illinois One, LLC with respect to the adult-oriented novelty store located near Interstate 70 and Illinois Route 1.

The agreement, according to information provided by Smith, is that the company “will not operate or permit to be operated any adult use business on the property or any business in which their owner has any interest in or any other business that is substantially similar to The Gift Spot.”

Roy May, of Chicago, owns about 44 adult novelty stores through a variety of holding corporations, Smith said.

May could put a different one up next week in another part of Marshall, so long as it’s zoned industrially, Smith said.

However, none of those spots is located at the entrance to the city, he added.

“You can’t pray them out. You can’t preach them out. You have to zone them out,” Smith said, referring to the advice lawyers have given him and others through what has been nearly 20 years of battle with adult entertainment venues.

According to Bernardoni, zoning was “the linchpin,” noting that legally a city cannot prohibit a business from “plying its trade,” but they can control where the trade is conducted.

Both Bernardoni and Smith said the operation of an adult novelty store at the town’s entrance from the interstate gave a “bad impression” of the community, one they claimed has steered industry away in the past.

But the fight actually kicked off around 1989 under Mayor Richard Smitley’s administration, when a different adult-oriented business opened up on the city’s east side, Smith said.

The fight against The Gift Spot has been ongoing since the late 1990s, he said.

“The cost was quite substantial if you go beginning to end,” Smith said, guessing the two decades of legal bills to be between $600,000 and $700,000.

Some have balked at the value of waging such a costly fight, he said. To Smith though, it was worth it.

“We have a much cleaner community,” he said.

The money woes went both ways, as The Gift Spot’s owners were looking at cumulative fines of $750 per day per corporation over a multiyear period, Bernardoni said.

It took years for the city to win in federal court the ruling stating its zoning regulation regarding adult businesses was constitutional, he said. But once won, they immediately fought to enforce it, with maximum fines set at $750 per day.

For his part, Smith said he thanks the Gift Spot’s owners “for finally coming to terms” and agreeing to close at the interstate location.

Although the city does not plan to buy the soon-to-be-vacated building, Smith said they would help market it to another business.

“We will help them out of town,” he said of the Gift Spot.

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