Originally created 11/05/03

Adult store might close



A federal court ruling that allowed an adult book and video store to open temporarily on Gordon Highway has been overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to an opinion released by the court last week.

Augusta commissioners will consider in closed legal session today whether to try to make Augusta Video X-Mart close immediately or allow it to stay open until remaining lawsuits between the city and the bookstore are settled or decided.

"I will talk to commissioners tomorrow concerning their options," City Attorney Jim Wall said.

X-Mart opened for business Jan. 20, after a U.S. District Court ruling deemed Augusta's adult entertainment zoning ordinance invalid. Although the court case arguing the shop's right to free speech is pending, the temporary order allowed X-Mart to reopen in the interim.

The Augusta Commission filed an appeal of the decision with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals later that month, and arguments were presented in October.

The court's ruling in favor of the city was filed Thursday.

Mr. Wall said Tuesday that he was pleased with the outcome of the appeal.

Last year, commissioners denied X-Mart its adult entertainment license amid much protest about its location near the intersection of Gordon Highway and Molly Pond Road. To try to keep the store from opening, elected officials voted to change the city's licensing laws, prohibiting such shops from locating along "gateway corridors" or highly visible parts of the city.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. ruled that the ordinance governing adult stores was a zoning

ordinance, requiring that it be advertised 15 days before being passed. The city did not advertise the proposed ordinance change, so he ruled that it was passed illegally, and X-Mart opened for business a few weeks later.

The appeals court ruled last week that ordinances regulating types of businesses are not necessarily zoning ordinances, which means Augusta's laws were valid when X-Mart tried to locate on Gordon Highway.

The three-judge appeal panel based its decision on an opinion it issued earlier this year in the case of Artistic Entertainment Inc., an adult entertainment company, versus the city of Warner Robins. Judge Bowen had ruled on the Augusta case before that decision.

X-Mart Attorney Gary Edinger said he does not expect the appeal to have any effect on the store's operations while Judge Bowen continues to consider X-Mart's constitutional case.

That case argues that the city's adult entertainment ordinance violates free speech.

Staff Writer James Gallagher contributed to this article.

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