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Update: Blumenthal Joins Fight In Appeal Of VIP Ruling

HARTFORD, Conn. – from – Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is joining a small town’s appeal of a federal court ruling he says threatens the ability of local governments to regulate sexually oriented businesses.

Blumenthal said Wednesday he has asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to overturn a lower court decision in a case involving Berlin and the VIP chain of adult stores.

Berlin appealed a U.S. District Court ruling that would allow VIP to open a store on the Berlin Turnpike within 250 feet of a residential neighborhood. Judge Stefan Underhill in Bridgeport ruled last month that a town ordinance prohibiting adult-oriented stores that close to residential areas is unconstitutionally vague. The judge then temporarily barred the town from enforcing the ordinance.

“This battle is bigger than Berlin — because all towns and cities have rights and responsibilities to protect their citizens from businesses that sell sex material,” Blumenthal said in a statement.

The company, which operates other stores in Hartford, Orange and Manchester, claims it was being prohibited from exercising its First Amendment rights to display and disseminate expressive videos, publications and books.

Blumenthal said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that free-speech rights are not absolute.

VIP was allowed to open the store for four days at the end of July in response to the federal judge’s ruling, but the federal appeals court stayed the ruling days later and ordered the store closed until the town’s appeal in the case is decided.

VIP attorney, Daniel Silver, said he was confident the court would allow VIP to reopen because adult products make up only about 10 to 12 percent of the merchandize.

“It’s mostly clothing and shoes. We’re talking 14,000 pieces of lingerie, 1,500 to 2,000 pairs of shoes,” he said.

“I wish he (Blumenthal) would spend more time on important state business because this relates solely to the town of Berlin and doesn’t have anything to do with the state of Connecticut,” Silver added.

The store had a sign that touted lingerie, adult toys, oils, lotions and novelty gifts. The owners have been fighting for the right to open the store since 2006.

Berlin Mayor Adam Salina said Blumenthal’s argument to the appeals court bolsters the town’s case.

“These businesses should be barred from operating near residential homes where they may attract crime and detract the quality of neighborhoods,” Salina said.


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