Posted: Sep 26, 2010 11:55 AM
Source: Associated Press
Terrebonne Parish officials want a store in a Houma mall to stop selling sex toys, adult books and bondage kits.
Terrebonne Parish Councilman Billy Hebert asked parish administrators to inspect the Spencer's novelty store in Southland Mall after receiving complaints. Spencer's is a national chain with hundreds of stores in the United States.
Parish officials say the Spencer's in Southland Mall is violating a law that prohibits the sale of adult items within 1,000 feet of a residential district, school or church.
The law says the 1,000-foot measurement starts at the outside of the building, according to Parish Planning Director Pat Gordon. The parish is measuring from outside the mall, not Spencer's, which is within about 250 feet from an apartment complex.
Kevin Mahoney, an attorney for New Jersey-based Spencer's, told The Courier newspaper in Houma that the company's merchandise, which also includes T-shirts and costumes, doesn't meet the parish's legal definitions of sexually oriented businesses.
Mahoney says legally defined adult items make up less than 5 percent of the store's stock. The legal definition of substantial, he said, is 20 percent of a store's stock.
The store is being asked to remove the sexually oriented items the parish claims violate the law, Gordon said, and parish officials plan to meet with Spencer's attorney Friday.
The mall's general manager, Dawn Becker, said the mall's management company is not getting involved in the dispute because it does not participate in the permitting or licensing of its businesses.
Mahoney said Spencer's has 600 shops across the U.S. and has operated for decades in Louisiana communities with similar laws.
"We've never been found to be an adult business under an ordinance like this," Mahoney said, adding that opposition isn't frequent in the store's decades-long history. "It tends to come up more with a new store because that specific community is not familiar with us."
Though Spencer's sells some adult items, the merchandise is kept in the back of the store, and clerks are instructed to turn away young teenagers and other youth if they're not accompanied by an adult, Mahoney said.