Murrieta moves to shut down adult store

LAURA MITCHELL
NCTimes.com
Friday, March 3, 2006

MURRIETA ---- The city ordered an adult business to shut down Friday, two days after it opened, but the owner says he'll fight to keep it open ---- as he has done before in other California cities.

Dream Box, an adult novelty store that opened Wednesday, sells sex toys, adult videos, lingerie, spiked-heeled shoes and elaborate water pipes, also known as hookahs and bongs. The store at the corner of Madison Avenue and Pear Street, in a largely industrial part of town, is two doors down from AirTime, a children's party place.

City officials say they were not aware that the store opened until early Friday. Late Friday, they sent a letter to the owner ordering that the shop close, saying the adult business is too close to children's activities. City code requires adult-oriented businesses to be at least 1,000 feet from churches, schools, parks and clubs for boys and girls. A gymnastics center, Total Velocity Shock Elite, is about 500 feet away.

The owner of Dream Box, Sam Kim of Anaheim, said late Friday he had not received the city's letter but would go over it with his attorney when he does. Kim guessed that his attorney would not advise him to close the shop. He said he owns 10 such stores in Orange and Riverside counties and has been in the business for about 20 years.

Neighboring business owners said they were concerned about the clientele that would be attracted to the adult store.

"We don't like the type of people it will draw," Commercial Copy owner Larry Bangert said Friday. Bangert's business is in the same shopping center as Dream Box.

Bangert said he's concerned because his 4-year-old granddaughter often comes in to his shop.

"I won't be able to let her out of my sight," he said, adding that he's also concerned for children coming in and out of AirTime. The owner of AirTime did not want to comment on her new neighbor.

But Kim said the store is not legally considered an adult novelty store and is allowed to be there. If a majority of the store's space is dedicated to non-adult items, the store is not considered an adult store, according to city laws, he said. And the pipes are tobacco pipes, Kim said.

He said he opened a store in Murrieta because its ordinance does not specify how much space defines an adult establishment.

"Temecula has a city ordinance that says less than 10 percent of the space is not an adult store. Murrieta doesn't have anything like that," Kim said.

Murrieta City Attorney John Harper said Friday, however, that Kim's definition of an adult store is not that simple. Other factors are involved, such as the primary orientation of the store and the dollar amount of sales, Harper said.

The city's position is that Kim's business is prohibited at that location, he said.

In addition, the business license issued for Dream Box says it will be selling men's, women's and children's clothing and toys, Harper said.

Deputy City Manager Chris Paxton contended Friday that the disparity on the license appears to be a fraudulent attempt to avoid city scrutiny of Dream Box's true business.

Neighboring businesses say they were also misled.

"We were told it would be a lingerie shop, like Victoria's Secret," Commercial Copy employee Verna Jacobsen said Friday. "We were definitely not told about the drug paraphernalia."

But Murrieta police officials said the pipes may not technically be drug paraphernalia.

If an item is obviously used for growing, cultivating or injecting drugs, it is considered drug paraphernalia and must be kept in a separate area, Murrieta police Sgt. Jon Flavin said Friday. Regarding pipes, shop owners are going to say they can be used to smoke tobacco, Flavin said.

Everyone knows what water pipes are used for, but there needs to be proof it would be used for drugs to call it drug paraphernalia, he said.

Flavin said the department's special enforcement team checked out the store and did not find any violations of the penal code.



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