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Murfreesboro sues owner of 21 Up Videos and More store

Tennessee- The fate of Murfreesboro’s only “adults-only” video store is now in the hands of a judge.

The city filed suit last Wednesday in Rutherford County Circuit Court against the owner of 21 Up Videos and More, Vince Bohannon, and the management company, Sisters Properties.

The suit asks Judge Royce Taylor to shut the business down for running an “adults-only bookstore” in an area not zoned for heavy industrial use.

Bohannon’s attorney, Philip Elbert, said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he had not yet been served with it.

“Our position has been that the ordinance violates the state and the federal constitution,” Elbert said.

The city would not comment on the suit, city spokesman Chris Shofner said.

21 Up opened in September on at 2209 N. W. Broad St. to sell sex-related videos, toys and lingerie in an area zoned for commercial business. City zoning laws restrict such businesses to areas zoned for heavy industry. The ordinance also stipulates that adults-only establishments can’t be within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, parks, other adults-only businesses or anywhere that sells beer or liquor.

In 2005, Bohannon and his brother won a similar suit before the Tennessee Supreme Court after the city of Knoxville shut down their store Fantasy Video. The court ruled in that case that Knoxville’s law restricting adult bookstores was too vague.

On Sept. 28, the Murfreesboro City Council passed a resolution to clarify the definition of adult bookstore in the city’s ordinance restricting such establishments. The ordinance now specifies that such establishments are those in which sexual material made up more than 20 percent of floor space, 20 percent of the inventory by units or by value or more than 20 percent of revenues, or a total inventory of more than 200 units.

The suit also claims the store was opened without obtaining the proper building and business permits.

Shofner said Thursday that in the past two months, city planners had gone through the Yellow Pages and inspected every video rental store to see if it violated the ordinance.

On Feb. 1, Video Culture — a long standing video rental business — was sent a letter from City Planning Director Joseph Aydelott informing them he had inspected the store and it was in violation of the same ordinance. The letter said the store was classified as adult bookstore because it had more than 200 videos or DVDs of a primarily sexual nature in a back room. The letter gave the store 10 days to change that.

Shofner said that since the 10 days had been up, a city inspector paid an unofficial visit to Video Culture, but that no official inspection has occurred and so there is no official word as to whether or not the store now meets the standards of the ordinance.

The store’s co-owner, Shelley Justiss, said she had no idea that city employees had been in her store looking around since the initial inspection.

Justiss said she has been working to comply with the city’s standards, spending time every day removing adult titles from shelves.

“My biggest fear is that I’m getting lumped in the 21 and Up, which is apples and oranges as far as I’m concerned,” Justiss said. She has maintained that adult titles make up a very small percentage of the store’s overall trade.

She said there has been a lot of support from the people of Murfreesboro since the Daily News Journal reported Wednesday that the city had classified that store as an adult book store.

“We’ve opened about 70 new accounts in two days,” Justiss said. “So, definitely, the people are speaking.”

She said she intends to request a reinspection Monday if she hasn’t heard from the city by then.


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