Adult book store to challenge ordinance

April 05, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - An attorney representing the owners of a downtown adult bookstore said he will challenge a state appeals court's ruling Tuesday to uphold a city ordinance that bans adult businesses from operating between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Howard J. Schulman, who represents the owners of The Video Store at 23 E. Washington St., said he will file an appeal with the Maryland Court of Appeals - the state's highest court - to challenge the constitutionality of a ruling made Tuesday in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

The deadline to appeal is 45 days.

Schulman argued that the ordinance violates Article 40 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Both documents protect freedom of speech.

Schulman said the ruling from the Court of Special Appeals "sets a dangerous precedent" and conflicts with "virtually" every decision that federal courts of appeals have made on the issue up to this point.


The Video Store's owners are concerned particularly with the portion of the ordinance that attacks freedom of speech by restricting adult businesses from operating between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., Schulman said.

According to court records, the City Council adopted an ordinance in 2002 that put a limit on the hours an adult business can conduct business after several people complained that illegal drug and sexual activities were occurring early in the morning at The Video Store.

One man claimed to city officials that he contracted AIDS as the result of engaging in "hundreds" of homosexual sex acts at The Video Store, court records show.

Schulman said the city has never disclosed that person's identity to establish credibility.

To comply with the ordinance, The Video Store currently operates from 8 a.m. to midnight.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld a ruling in this case that was made in the Circuit Court for Washington County.

City Attorney Mark Boyer could not be reached for comment.

Adult business ordinance

The ordinance states that adult businesses cannot:

· Operate between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

· Be located within 500 feet of another legally operating and licensed adult business.

· Allow the openings of booths, cubicles or other areas that people use to view adult films to be closed off.

· Allow booths, cubicles or other areas to have holes or openings that are connected to an adjoining booth or cubicle.

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