Montgomery council closes X-rated store
By Sebastian Kitchen
The sign on the door of Montgomery's newest 24-hour adult store reads "temporarily closed," but there are several people in the community who want the doors permanently shut.
The city shut the store down Monday for operating without a business permit, and on Tuesday the City Council unanimously denied an operating permit to the X-Mart Adult Supercenter, located at 3500 Birmingham Highway.
The Rev. James Lester, pastor at Fannin Road Baptist Church, said there was a grassroots movement in west Montgomery to stop the adult store.
He opposes the adult-themed company, Lester said, because there are eight churches in the area and two mobile home parks with numerous schoolchildren. He said his church operates a bus ministry for children along the highway.
Gary Edinger, attorney for the business owner, said they will appeal to federal court next week. He said they will ask for emergency injunctive relief to allow the business to operate.
Edinger, who is from Gainesville, Fla., and specializes in First Amendment cases, said items not deemed obscene are legal and protected by the First Amendment. The items advertised on the sign of his client's business include movies, novelties and lingerie. He said there would not be live entertainment.
Mayor Bobby Bright said it was ill advised to come into Montgomery and begin operating a business without a permit. Bright and other city officials agreed the business permit could be denied simply because the establishment opened knowingly breaking the law.
Edinger said there are constitutional problems with the city's ordinance and believes his client will have a strong case in federal court. He said federal courts are often sensitive to the First Amendment.
The X-Marts are a franchise and predominantly located in South Florida, Edinger said. The Montgomery store would be one of the larger sites, he said.
The business opened about two weeks ago without a permit, Edinger said.
The adult store would be the third in the city.
"We are always monitoring those shops to make sure they are following the law," Bright said.
The store was not denied a license based on the material, but on its illegal actions, he said.
The city sent someone into the store Monday and the individual purchased items. With no permit, police demanded the business be closed.
Lester encouraged the council to take a stand. The store was opened illegally and dishonestly, he said.
Lester said people's actions in their bedroom are their business, but those on the streets are the public's business.
His church is located at 3525 Fannin Road, about a mile from the store.
Lester said pornography is a very popular industry and he believes the council will be addressing the issue again in the future.
"With the size of the pornography industry now, there will be more," he said.
Edinger said he has never had a political body approve a license. He expected the decision, but said he was disappointed.
Edinger said a governmental entity cannot deny a license based on morals, but can deny a license based on its ordinance, which often includes specifics about the merchandise sold, the age of people allowed to enter and the proximity to schools or other entities.
"You can't suspend the Constitution based on moral outrage," Edinger said.