ALACHUA – Little more than an hour after City of Alachua commissioners unanimously voted Feb. 27 to deny an appeal by a would be sex shop seeking to locate in Alachua, company officials with the Ohio based Lion’s Den Adult Boutique presented the City with an alternative storefront model.
Doing business as Lion’s Den Adult Boutique, Alachua Retail 51, LLC sought to have the commission overturn a June 2011 decision by City Manager Traci Cain in which she denied a the company’s application for a Certificate of Land Development Regulations (LDR) Compliance. During a Board of Adjustments hearing commissioners denied the company’s appeal, which aims to open a sexually-related business near the intersection of Interstate 75 and U.S. High 441 in the former Western Teepee building and Scultura.
Cain denied the certificate on the grounds that it failed to comply with Alachua’s Gateway Center ordinance, which the adult novelty retailer argues was only enacted to prevent their store from opening.
In a commission workshop scheduled after the Board of Adjustments hearing, company officials pitched a redesigned storefront to city officials in hopes of gaining approval. Jeff Braswell, an attorney representing Lion’s Den, said the new store concept would be a way for both his client and the City of Alachua to avoid a potentially costly legal battle.
Among the changes being proposed as a set of conditions are, that in lieu of Lion’s Den, the front 25 percent of the store would be rebranded as M Passion, a newer concept used by the company.
Braswell likened the M Passion business model to that of Victoria Secret, featuring lingerie. He called it a couple’s store adding, “We like to say, ‘they sell romance.’”
Though the redesigned concept would tone down the overt sexual nature of the store, the rear portion of it would still feature items typically found in an adult novelty store. The two sections would be separated by a clerk’s counter and other visual distractions that company officials said would block exposure to more sexually explicit material.
Lion’s Den Vice President Michael Ulery said his company doesn’t “sell a lot of materials that are more controversial.”
In addition to a rebranded front end to the store, Lion’s Den officials propose landscaping and building upgrades to make the building more attractive.
“I can’t think of any business other than this that would be willing to invest this much money into the exterior and into the landscaping,” Braswell said.
No one under the age of 18 would be permitted in the store, no in-store viewing of materials would be permitted and there wouldn’t be any viewing booths. The store would be under 24-hour surveillance and about 1,000 square feet of the building would only be available for storage space as a way to meet required building to parking ratios.
Commissioners did not comment on the proposal during the workshop. The company has already filed suit against the City as a result of the earlier denial. That lawsuit would presumably be settled were commissioners to reach an agreement with company officials on allowing some variation of the adult novelty store.
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