HOUSTON (CN) – The Houston City Council on Wednesday revised city law to prevent a Canadian purveyor of sex robots that plans to open its first U.S. shop from offering customers, as one councilman put it, a “try-it-before-you-buy” option.
The City Council and Mayor Sylvester Turner unanimously approved the ordinance amending the city’s sexually oriented business regulations.
The move comes after city officials learned the owner of Toronto-based KinkySdollS planned to open a shop soon where lifelike dolls made of silicon and plastic would be available to rent and take to a private room for $80 for 30 minutes, or $120 per hour.
Though it’s clear that KinkySdollS’ arrival in the city prompted the vote, Turner, a licensed attorney, said the revisions were not solely meant to restrict KinkySdollS.
“We are not targeting any one business. We are just modifying the statute passed in 1996 to keep pace with changing elements in our community,” Turner said at Wednesday’s council meeting.
Last week, code enforcement officers shut down the company’s remodel of a building in southwest Houston because it did not have the proper permits.
The site is within Councilman Mike Laster’s district. Laster, an attorney who specializes in real estate, asked City Attorney Ronald Lewis for clarification on what the amendment entails.
“The gist of what we’re attempting to approve here today would sort of eliminate the try-it-before-you-buy opportunity or option in some of these establishments. Is my interpretation correct, Mr. Lewis?”
“Yes,” Lewis said.
Councilman Greg Travis, a HooverSlovacek attorney, issued a warning Tuesday during a council meeting in which five Houstonians spoke out against the business, two of whom cited Bible verses.
“I’ve already got cameras lined up that whenever, if ever, this ever occurs, I’ll be out there 24/7 with the cameras filming everybody who comes in and everybody who goes out and we’ll post it on social media so people can see who’s using this,” Travis said.
Pastor Richard Vega urged the City Council on Tuesday to block sin from entering the city.
“A robotic brothel does not just defile men and women, but it comes against the word of God. And if you believe God will just sit back and remain silent, I’m sorry, you’re sadly mistaken,” he said.
Travis did not mention the cameras at Wednesday’s meeting. He said the City Council is not trying to legislate morality.
“We don’t care what people do in their bedrooms on this,” he said. “If someone wants to order these dolls and have them at their home, it’s weird, but that’s fine. They can do that. But this is a business, a commercial enterprise in our city and our city is not known as sin city.”
KinkySdollS sells the robots for $2,000 to $10,000. The high-end models are programmed to have conversations.
Councilman Dwight Boykins said he would like to see the city’s laws – which prohibit sexually oriented businesses within 1,500 feet of schools, parks, churches, homes, hospitals and public buildings – revised to make it very difficult for similar businesses to operate anywhere in the city.
“How can we come up with something that’s real strong? Because no one would want that in their district, I don’t care how you put lipstick on that pig,” he said.
Mayor Turner said the city is just closing some loopholes to make the ordinance current in response to new technologies.
“We all want businesses to come to our city, but there are businesses that you don’t mind not coming to our city … There are some that we say it’s fine if you go someplace else,” Turner said.
KinkySdollS did not immediately respond Wednesday when asked for a response to the amendment and if still plans to open a shop in Houston.