Adult store gets no relief from columbia zoning appeals board – coladaily. com

Columbia’s zoning appeals board has denied a special permit request that would allow the Taboo Adult Superstore to continue operating without facing penalties for violating city zoning codes. But the board’s decision on Tuesday didn’t sit well with the attorney for the business, who said he and the store’s owner will consider filing another lawsuit against the city.

The owner of the Taboo Adult Superstore hopes to continue operating on Devine Street. (File photo by Allen Wallace)

“A sexually oriented business is the last acceptable target of prejudice,” Thomas Goldstein, the attorney representing Taboo owner Jeff White, said after Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s okay to be prejudiced against a sexually oriented business, which I don’t really understand.”

The seven-member zoning appeals board unanimously rejected White’s appeal for a special exemption to operate his store in a general commercial district that is reserved for retail, office and service establishments.

The board similarly rejected White’s claim that he wasn’t allowed to schedule a pre-hearing conference as part of the appeals application process.

Zoning Administrator Brian Cook issued a letter to the business in January after an inspection found that Taboo was selling adult toys in violation of zoning laws regarding sexual-device stores in general commercial districts.

Cook argued that Columbia’s city code prohibits stores that sell adult books, videos and toys to operate in commercial districts. Therefore, Cook said, Taboo could not receive a special exemption to continue operating.

The pre-hearing conference White requested wasn’t required as part of the appeals process because Taboo is ineligible for a special exemption, Cook said.

Taboo has been fighting to remain in its location on Devine Street since shortly after it opened in 2011. The city of Columbia changed its zoning laws to prohibit sexually oriented businesses in general commercial districts just a few weeks after Taboo’s opening.

Sexually oriented businesses are permitted to operate in light – and heavy-industrial areas, which generally house buildings used for wholesale, manufacturing and distribution purposes.

In 2015, a district court judge denied White’s request that the city be required to allow his business to remain on Devine Street while he sued the city.

Cook said in a January letter that other lawsuits White filed against the city were rejected by the district court on Jan. 7, 2016, giving the city the go-ahead to enforce its law. Penalties under that law could result in White receiving a fine of up to $500, 30 days in jail or both.

At Tuesday’s meeting , Taboo employees said that removing adult toys from the store’s shelves has caused the store to lose half its weekend sales.

When asked whether Taboo would move somewhere a sexually oriented business is allowed, Store Manager Larry Boyer said the only locations the city has suggested are warehouses, undeveloped properties, or property owned and occupied by the South Carolina Electric and Gas company.

Currently Taboo is located on a busy part of Devine Street near Fort Jackson that includes Crosshill Market, an upscale shopping center featuring a Whole Foods Market, Ulta and Basil Thai restaurant.

In recent months, several large companies have opened in the Rosewood Crossing Development directly across from Taboo, including Petsmart, Marshalls, Michael’s and Kirklands.

Taboo has’t had any issues with nearby businesses, and before the zoning change it had always been compliant with local laws, Boyer said

“We’ve been there since 2011,” he said. “If the people of the city didn’t want us there, we would’ve been out of business. We wouldn’t have had the money to stay in business.”

board of zoning appeals, City of Columbia, Jeff White, Larry Boyer, sexually oriented business, Taboo, Thomas Goldstein