Shut down for the second time in three years, Myrtle Beach area - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Shut down for the second time in three years, Myrtle Beach area store fights Horry County regs in court

(Source: WMBF News) (Source: WMBF News)

From WMBF News Partner MyHorryNews.com:

By Charles D. Perry

New name, same result.

A Myrtle Beach area porn store on Monday appealed the county’s decision to revoke its business license. The store is the same one local officials shut down in 2014 after they said it had become a hub for sexual encounters.

Cherry Boxxx, the U.S. 17 Bypass business formerly known as Airport Express Video, claims the county improperly yanked its license after county leaders adopted new regulations in January.

“It is error to retroactively apply this newly enacted business license statute to a business which was approved for a license prior to the enactment of the ordinance,” the appeal states.

But county officials contend the store restocked its supply of pornography and sex paraphernalia after receiving its business license last year and was illegally operating as an adult business. The store is not zoned as that type of establishment.

“Cherry Boxxx has not put forth a single piece of evidence or any argument that the revocation was improper,” wrote Davis Inabnit Jr., the hearing officer in the case.

County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said officials are aware of the store’s appeal but she couldn’t discuss it because the matter is now in court.

Kelvin Lewis, the owner of Cherry Boxxx, could not be reached for comment. Gene Connell, the Surfside Beach lawyer representing the store, also could not be reached.  

In 2014, Solicitor Jimmy Richardson shut down the business when it operated under the name Airport Express Video. At the time, Richardson used the state’s public nuisance statute to close Airport Express and several other nightclubs.

The solicitor’s investigators found evidence of lewd behavior going on in video booths in the back of the store. A private investigator and an Horry County police detective testified they had heard men engaging in sexual acts in the booths.

A year after his business was shut down, Lewis again tried to obtain the proper zoning compliance from the county. But county officials repeatedly refused to grant him a business license to operate as an adult establishment.

County policy prohibits adult businesses from locating within 1,500 feet of houses of worship and residential areas. The store sits 168 feet from a church and is within 600 feet of a home.

When Lewis applied for a business license last June, he agreed to remove all sexual devices and paraphernalia from his store, according to the report from Inabnit, the hearing officer. The county’s zoning administrator visited the store and confirmed all the items had been removed. Lewis then obtained a business license.

When the county sent a detective to Cherry Boxxx in August, the store had begun selling pornographic videos and sex paraphernalia again, the report said. The detective found the same items again in September and January.

At one point, the detective reported that 70 percent of the store featured sexual devices or erotic media.

“A store with hundreds of sexual devices, a triple X logo on its sign, and a life-size blowup doll with a penis pump in its mouth where customers walk in the door cannot seriously maintain that it is not a sex paraphernalia store,” Inabnit’s report states.

The county revoked the store’s business license on March 1. The following month, Inabnit presided over an appeal hearing.

On April 10, a day before the hearing, Lewis provided a doctor’s note from his internist saying the physician did not want Lewis attending a court hearing at that time, Inabnit’s report said.

Lewis’ lawyer attended the hearing and asked that it be postponed, but that request was denied because the officer believed Lewis had been given enough time to reschedule the hearing beforehand, according to the report.

Cherry Boxxx’s latest appeal, which was filed in circuit court, argues that the county tried to shut down the store using a business license ordinance that was adopted in January.

The ordinance stipulates that businesses wanting to stay open late and sell alcohol be required to go through a rigorous screening process and pay a $250 fee. County officials said the policy stemmed from numerous complaints about nuisance businesses reopening under different names.

In the case of Cherry Boxxx, the business received its license about seven months before the county passed the new policy. This is the first legal challenge to that ordinance.

The appeal calls the business license ordinance “constitutionally deficient” and questions the process for revoking the license, including the use of an independent hearing officer.

Lewis’ lawyer wanted to cross-examine witnesses during the hearing but the hearing officer would not allow him to, according to court documents.

The appeal states that the business license policy shouldn’t apply to Cherry Boxxx because the store doesn’t sell alcohol. It asks the court to declare the county’s policy unconstitutional and reverse the decision. 

Read the original article on MyHorryNews.com here.

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