3 suits challenge Balto. County restraints on adult video stores

Business owners claim measure is `ambiguous,' amounts to censorship

May 07, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County has been slapped with three suits by adult video store operators who say that a new county law forcing them to move is unfair and illegal.

The suits, filed by operators of stores in Towson and Essex and a countywide chain, allege that the law restricting adult video stores to manufacturing districts amounts to censorship. The law took effect in March.

"The Baltimore County Adult Entertainment Law is vague, ambiguous, overly broad and lacking in standards so as to be subject to manipulation for purposes of censorship," according to the suit filed recently in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by Allno Enterprises Inc., the operator of 104 Video Adult Sales and Gifts, which is across from a Catholic church in the 1700 block of Eastern Blvd. in Essex.

Owners of the Love Ones lingerie shop on York Road in Towson and Movie Sales, which operates five stores in Baltimore County, also filed suits April 27 in Baltimore County Circuit Court. All three suits allege that the law is unconstitutional.

The law, passed unanimously by the County Council, restricts adult video stores to heavy manufacturing districts and requires that they operate at least 1,000 feet from schools, homes, churches or parks and at least 2,500 feet from each other.

Under the law, stores that have less than 20 percent of their stock or floor space dedicated to adult materials can remain in commercial districts.

The law, which also restricted new tattoo and massage parlors to manufacturing zones, was passed in February 1998, but gave adult video stores a year to relocate.

Violators could be fined up to $500 a day, county officials said.

County Council members said when they passed the law that it was crafted to withstand constitutional challenges.

Howard J. Schulman, the attorney for Allno Enterprises and Love Ones, said the law is intended to shut down adult video stores. "The law basically zones these stores out of existence in Baltimore County," Schulman said.

County Attorney Virginia Barnhart and Charles A. Fineblum, the attorney for David Drutz, who operates the Movie Sales chain, declined to comment yesterday.

Drutz has said in the past that if he redesigned his stores so that he used only 20 percent of the space for adult videos, he would lose money and have to close.

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