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Neighbors oppose Sensations lingerie and pipe shop

Bakersfield, CA- The downtown business community is rallying to oppose a lingerie and adult novelty shop that is preparing to open in the heart of what city leaders hope to transform into an arts district.

Sensations, a lingerie and pipe shop, was issued a business license months ago, but only started remodeling this month at a leased storefront at 2001 Chester Ave. Among other things, the store plans to sell lingerie, sex toys and adult movies.

Although the store has yet to open, mannequins clad in G-strings and lingerie are displayed in windows to the horror of outspoken neighbors.

Tina Perry, who owns Tina Marie’s Cafe across the street, has spread the word that she’s not associated with the store despite the identical black and hot pink color scheme on both exteriors.

Roy Freeman, an ordained minister who owns nearby Rose’s Bead and Rock Shop, is consulting a lawyer to find out how far he can go to deter would-be shoppers by photographing customers and posting their pictures at the entrance to his shop.

“If that’s not legal, I guess I’ll just stand at the front door and pass out my (pastor) business cards and ask them if they need spiritual counseling.”

No one answered the phone at Sensations on Monday. Messages left for owner Karim Ali at his Visalia store were not returned.

The Visalia Police Department wasn’t aware of any severe crime problems at or near the store in their city.

The owners of the building that houses the Bakersfield storefront leased to Ali are Nam V. and Maria T. Bui, who did not return a phone call to Maria’s Furniture, which they also own.

Bakersfield Downtown Business Association President Cathy Butler worries Sensations will attract undesirable activity, but said the upside is that could give police justification to shut it down.

In a letter responding to an inquiry from the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association, City Attorney Virginia Gennaro said Bakersfield’s regulation of adult entertainment is carefully drafted to comply with legal precedent set by state and federal court First Amendment rulings.

But that’s moot, because the shop doesn’t meet the legal definition of an adult entertainment store and isn’t subject to those regulations anyway, said Assistant Planning Director Jim Eggert.

To be subject to an adult entertainment business license, more than a quarter of a store’s merchandise and gross receipts must be adult novelties. Most of Sensations’ floor space in the plan it submitted to the city for site review was lingerie, which for legal purposes is considered apparel and is not subject to any more regulation than a traditional clothing store.

The city has been inundated with complaints, however, so both code enforcement and police will monitor the store closely to see if it exceeds that 25 percent threshold, Eggert said.

Gross receipts are counted at the end of a year, but the city can inspect at any time.

If Sensations had applied for an adult entertainment license, the request would have been denied based on proximity to two other adult stores and Downtown Elementary School on M Street.

The legalities are little comfort to Wes Bradford, president of nearby Clifford and Bradford Insurance Agency, who worries about how clients will perceive his company and a key tenant in his building, Stars Theatre Restaurant, which hosts fine arts classes for children.

“This isn’t a good thing for us and it’s not good for the school,” Bradford said. “Children shouldn’t see that.”

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