Originally created 01/07/03

Adult bookstore gets set to open



A widely opposed adult bookstore on Gordon Highway is expected to open its doors again early next week - more than five months after its manager was arrested and the store's doors were closed for violating the city's adult entertainment ordinance.

Augusta Video X-Mart, located at the intersection of Gordon Highway and Molly Pond Road, has been stocked with merchandise and ready to open since summer, bookstore attorney Gary Edinger said Monday afternoon from his Florida office. He has been litigating with the city since early summer.

"The bookstore is definitely going to reopen," Mr. Edinger said. "We believe we have the right at this point."

X-Mart attorneys have argued that their client's right to free speech is being denied by elected officials who have prohibited the store from opening at the south Augusta location.

The shop is working to restaff and is expected to be up and running within a week, Mr. Edinger said.

Earlier laws regulating the sale of sexually explicit material permitted adult bookstores to locate in industrial areas. Although the Gordon Highway location is zoned for industrial use, the Augusta Commission voted in June to amend adult entertainment ordinances and prohibit such businesses from locating on "gateway corridors," or highly traveled entryways to the city.

The X-Mart location was deemed to be a gateway corridor, in part, because it is between Augusta Regional Airport and downtown.

The amended ordinance was voided in federal court last week after U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. said the commissioners failed to give 15 days' notice before voting on it. Notice of a hearing to revise the law was posted only 24 hours in advance, the court order said.

Although the bookstore's federal court case arguing the shop's right to free speech is pending, the temporary order allows X-Mart to reopen in the interim. If the city continues to enforce the ordinance, Mr. Edinger said, his client likely will open anyway. On the store's only previous business day, Manager Jimmy Cassandro was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

The Augusta Commission is expected to discuss the judge's order in a closed legal session at its regular meeting today. City Attorney Jim Wall declined to say how he would advise the elected officials.

South Augusta businessman and vocal bookstore opponent Jimmy Smith said he plans to stand on his earlier arguments but said he has not made any new plans to protest in front of the shop.

In June, he was among more than 150 demonstrators who picketed in front of the unopened X-Mart.

"We are going under the assumption that it's not going to open," Mr. Smith said.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.