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City Has Valid Reasons to Deny Adult Shop License

(CN) - An adult bookstore lost its challenge to a law that restrict its business in Alachua, Fla., after a federal judge found that the city has a legitimate interest in regulating such enterprises.

Alachua Retail 51 says it sells non-obscene adult products and that Alachua violated its First Amendment rights by refusing to grant it a business license.

The city changed its zoning regulations in 1995 to prohibit adult-entertainment businesses from operating in specific locations. As amended in 2003, the law permits adult stores to open outside a minimum distance from schools, parks, playgrounds, day care centers, religious institutions and residential districts.

Alachua Retail 51 opened its adult bookstore in 2010, but the city turned the surrounding property into a welcome center for visitors and future residents the following year. It then created a new ordinance to forbid adult entertainment in the area.

The new ordinance claims that studies prove sexually oriented businesses have negative effects on their neighborhoods, such as increased crime rates and decreased property values.

When Alachua refused to renew the book store's business license because of the new ordinance, the company took to the Northern District of Florida for an injunction.

U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle refused last week.

"The question is whether defendant's 'predominate concern' in passing the ordinance was to prevent the secondary effects of sexually oriented businesses, or to restrict the adult content of the businesses," the 11-page decision states.

Noting the city's studies that show areas surrounding sexually oriented businesses experience increased crime rates and property value depreciation, Mickle said the bookstore did not support its case.

"Plaintiff has not demonstrated that it has any evidence that the court could rely upon to find these reports are not reasonably relevant to the secondary effects defendant is addressing," the decision states

"In the present case, Ordinance 11-06 does not ban sexually oriented businesses from the city of Alachua but instead prohibits them from locating in the Gateway Activity Center," Mickle wrote. "Defendant lists at least 25 locations that are vacant and permissible under local zoning laws for sexually oriented businesses to locate. These alternative locations do not have to be 'ideal' and 'simply because adult businesses 'must fend for themselves in the real estate market' does not mean a violation of the First Amendment has occurred. ... In the present case, unless plaintiff can show these alternative locations are improper, there appears to be a constitutionally sufficient number of alternative sites and therefore defendant has met its burden to provide reasonable alternative channels of communication."

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