WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 16, 2012, 07:11 PM

GF Council Passes Sex Shop Ordinance

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The Grand Forks City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve an ordinance to license sexually-oriented businesses in town.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The Grand Forks City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve an ordinance to license sexually-oriented businesses in town.

That ordinance prevents the adult store Fantasys from opening in its proposed location, just a block from Winship Elementary School.

After several amendments to the ordinance, the council has set up a licensing requirement for sexually-oriented businesses. It includes adult book and video stores, cinemas, strip clubs, semi-nude model studios and sex paraphernalia stores.

Because of this ordinance, Fantasys will need to find a new location.

Sexually-oriented businesses can't be within 1,000 feet of a school or within 500 feet of a church, park or residential area.

"Back in January we had submitted everything, we had approval and we feel that it's very unfair for you to change the rules this late in the game," Fantasy's co-owner Kim Patterson said.

But City Attorney Howard Swanson says that was only in regards to zoning.

"You have not changed your zoning requirements. The information that was provided to these businesses in January was accurate then. It remains accurate today," Swanson said.

The council voted unanimously to add a grandfather clause to the ordinance, meaning Romantix can stay at its current location downtown Grand Forks.

"In other words, if one's already there and you decide to locate a church within 500 feet or say a school, which will never happen, then you're doing so at your own risk," City Council member Doug Christensen said.

The ordinance not only sets licensing requirements, but also regulates what goes on inside the business. Romantix will need to make a few interior changes. The store will add video cameras and plexi-glass doors to its video viewing booths along with additional lighting.

City Council member Tyrone Grandstrand expressed concern over how the city worked with Fantasy's owners.

"So I think we should look into what's happened and make sure that we adjust our procedures appropriately so that everyone knows what's going to go on when they come in, as much as we can," Grandstrand said.

"In response to public concern, this body is adopting a new set of regulations that were not contemplated in January of 2012," Swanson replied.

The ordinance excludes sex paraphernalia stores located inside an enclosed shopping mall, which would apply to Spencer's Gifts at Columbia Mall. There was a motion to remove that exclusion from the ordinance, but it failed with a five to two vote.

The businesses will have to follow the same hours of operation as bars follow and employees will have background checks. Romantix has 120 days to comply with the requirements.

Patterson previously said she would sue the city if this ordinance passed. The Patterson's had no comment as they left Monday night's meeting.