Originally created 12/17/03

Adult bookstore shut down



An adult bookstore will be forced to close its doors today after 11 months of sales on a highly traveled south Augusta corridor.

Augusta commissioners voted 8-1 Tuesday to revoke Augusta Video X-Mart's business license, after a brief but well-attended public hearing at the city municipal building.

Willie Mays voted against the revocation because he said businesses such as X-Mart have to go somewhere.

Commissioner Lee Beard did not attend the meeting.

City Attorney Jim Wall said notice will be hand-delivered to the Gordon Highway store today, notifying workers to shut down immediately or face charges of operating without a business license.

Bookstore opponents - nearly 100 of whom showed up at Tuesday's commission meeting - called the ruling a victory both for morality and for the city.

"If the people of Augusta continue to stand against them, eventually they will get the message," said Bob Garrett, a leader in the multidenominational Alleluia Community and a key opponent of the bookstore's operations. "They are not wanted in this town."

Last year, Augusta commissioners denied X-Mart officials a business license, saying the store was near a gateway corridor, a heavily traveled and highly visible road, in a violation of Augusta's adult entertainment ordinances.

X-Mart officials were granted a temporary injunction to open after taking the matter to U.S. District Court. The federal court allowed them to open in January, requiring the city to award X-Mart a business license.

City attorneys appealed that district court decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit and won. When a motion by X-Mart to rehear the case was denied earlier this month, the door was opened for Tuesday's revocation hearing.

"With God, we can win this battle," commissioner and pastor Bobby Hankerson said, a message that was met with applause from the standing-room-only audience. "We do not want this kind of activity in our city."

X-Mart attorney Tom Maddox characterized the commission's vote as one of "political expediency" and "a waste of time, anguish and money.

He said his client's lawsuit against Augusta is a "12- to 15-round fight" in only its second round. He vowed that the bookstore will find a way to operate in Augusta - if not in the current location, then elsewhere in the city - because it is their First Amendment right to do so.

"My client is committed to stay in this market because there is a market," Mr. Maddox said. "They will move if they have to move."

He said he plans to appeal Tuesday's revocation in state court, filing a motion as early as today.

A temporary restraining order - similar to the one granted in federal court this year - also could be issued in state court, which would allow the shop to reopen.

X-Mart also has challenged the constitutionality of Augusta's adult entertainment ordinances, which regulate stores that sell pornography. That First Amendment case is pending in federal court.

"My client is committed to stay in this market because there is a market." - Tom Maddox, attorney for Augusta Video X-Mart

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