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Trouble in Crystal City

Missouri- Crystal City achieved a temporary legal victory in keeping an adult book and video store closed last week, but the battle promises to drag on.

Storeowner Don Kleinhans and citizen protestors, such as Brian Menke of The Community Interest Voice of Jefferson County, both say they are dug in for a protracted battle, and both are highly confident the other side will blink first.

Kleinhans has reason to feel assured. He’s dealt with similar protests after opening other stores and said that not only have they proven to be legally groundless, they are a huge boon for his business.

He welcomes the sight of picketers with open arms.

“We’ve run into this stuff before,” Kleinhans said. “We had a store in Kentucky where it happened and what intrigues me is our store in Louisville did fourfold (in sales) what the other stores have done within the first six months.

“The only thing I can attribute it to is the number of protestors. We had the news channels and the helicopters flying over. The more protestors that come out, the more media coverage we receive. The news channels are lined up and ultimately what that does is give us about $10 million in advertising we could never pay for.”

Kleinhans said the protestors start out with a bang, but usually exit with nary a whimper.

“They had 100 protestors at the first (City Council) meeting and at the (subsequent) appeal there were very few protestors,” he said.

“I think that comment is absolutely true and he counts on that,” Menke said. “People will back off after the initial uproar. So we as a group are trying to keep our people motivated and will continue to fight. We have the forms necessary to file an obscenity complaint and we will start filing these complaints at the federal level. The president of the United States and the attorney general have put out statements that they are going to start vigorously enforcing obscenity violations. This will have a (local) effect.

“We are also sending letters of encouragement to (prosecuting attorney) Robert Wilkins to investigate and prosecute obscenity violations. We know this is going to be a long battle and we’ll just continue to file obscenity complaints against him until he gets tired of paying fines and shuts down.”

Menke also claims Kleinhans has attempted to intimidate and videotape protestors.

One area in which the two sides strongly differ is the impact such businesses have on the surrounding community. Kleinhans feels the protestors have been disseminating blatant propaganda.

“The propaganda they’ve been handing out at the street corners and at Wal-Mart, if you look at their sources it will say the American Family Association or the Christian Coalition.”

Menke disagrees.

“All the information we distribute are independent studies, not right-wing religious groups for the most part. These are government agencies and family-interest organizations,” he said.

Kleinhans also took issue with the perception among many that Crystal City was targeted because of a weakness in its laws governing sexually oriented businesses.

“Definitely not,” he said. “We found a building that was a phenomenal building that happened to be for lease. We were looking in that general area. We weren’t specifically looking in Crystal City. We were just traveling down that road and quite honestly we didn’t know what city it was in. It’s confusing right there. Across the street you’re in Festus. We had to ask the landlord what city to go and talk to. It’s a great, clean, upscale building.”

Claims that have surfaced in recent weeks forecasting increased criminal activity and loss of city revenue and/or property values are also bogus, Kleinhans said.

“It hasn’t affected the property values or caused any criminal activities (at our store) in the St. Louis area,” he said.

Again, Menke disagrees.

“The negative secondary effects include increased child molestation rate, decreased property values, things along those lines that are associated with these stores,” Menke said. “We have a store in a community that could cater to sexual predators and invite them into Crystal City. And one of the big concerns we have is the viewing booths.”

Kleinhans scoffs at those notions.

“I think people need to have a clear understanding that it’s simply a viewing room that an individual goes in and views a movie,” he said. “There are no live actions on property, no live nude show. What’s unfortunate is some in the community project all of these off-the-wall, crazed things people envision. They let their minds go wild.

“Our store in St. Louis has been open for three years. Crime has not increased around our store. We have a great relationship with the police department. People also argue property devaluation. There are three buildings next to us on Broadway that were vacant for five years. All three have sold to different buyers in the last six months. So I think that argument that we decrease property values is moot”

Kleinhans said he’s tried to be a good corporate citizen, but his attempts to reach out have been rebuffed.

“We’re businessmen and we’re there to do things proper and we tried every step of the way” he said. “We tried to talk, we tried to negotiate and they just refused to even work with us.”

For Menke, there is zero room for compromise.

“Not in my eyes,” he said. “To distribute obscenity by both Missouri and federal law is illegal.”



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