Spokane hopes to end long porn-shop battle
Two porn shops in north Spokane that have operated in what the city calls a violation of its laws for nearly a decade would get a five-year...
SPOKANE — Two porn shops in north Spokane that have operated in what the city calls a violation of its laws for nearly a decade would get a five-year reprieve under a proposed ordinance aimed at ending a long and costly string of lawsuits.
The city has battled the corporation that owns Hollywood Erotic Boutique for almost 10 years over strict rules the City Council created in 2001 and 2003 on adult-themed stores selling sexually explicit materials.
"We're talking about putting some sunset provisions in the law so that these businesses have a nice soft landing as they go away," said City Attorney Nancy Isserlis.
City law bans adult bookstores within 750 feet of residential and commercial zones, schools, religious institutions, libraries, day-care centers or other porn stores.
Hollywood claimed the rules violated its free-speech rights, but city officials have been successful in most court battles with the store.
Even so, city officials say, Hollywood continues violating the law. It has two locations within city limits: 3813 N. Division St. and 54 E. Wellesley Ave.
The city's most recent attempt to win compliance is a lawsuit filed in 2010 in federal court.
City leaders have grown weary of the expense of continuing to wage a legal battle. It has hired Milt Rowland, a former assistant city attorney, to handle most of the lawsuit. Some city officials hope amending the ordinance will lead to a settlement of the legal proceedings.
"With staff and legal fees, we're in excess of $500,000 if not over $1 million," said City Council President Ben Stuckart, who said he supports a settlement. "I'd rather have cops on the street than keep fighting this lawsuit."
Hollywood is owned by CAWA Corp. When the stores opened in the Spokane area in the late 1990s, a Spokesman-Review article said they were owned by Jim Sicilia, of California. Records indicate the Sicilia family remains involved in the corporation.
Gilbert Levy, the Seattle attorney representing CAWA, declined to comment on the case.
Earlier this year, City Council members were briefed on a proposal that would allow the adult stores open before the law is changed to stay in business indefinitely. Stuckart said that plan did not appear to have much support.
"I believe our ordinance is legal, and I believe our ordinance should be enforced," said Councilman Steve Salvatori, who added that he could support a settlement if it allowed the adult bookstores to remain out of compliance only temporarily.
Last month, the city planning commission was briefed on an ordinance that would give existing noncompliant adult stores five more years to comply. Mike Ekins, commission chairman, said the ordinance likely would be considered again later this month, when it could decide whether to recommend the change to the City Council.