Adult store wins legal round

Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
X-Mart on Gordon Highway must obtain a business tax certificate and a permit to operate an adult-entertainment establishment.

The owners of a proposed adult video and bookstore in Augusta won the latest round in their legal battle this week.

In a ruling Thursday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Augusta Video, the company that owns X-Mart, was entitled to grandfather status as far as zoning requirements at the X-Mart's chosen location, Molly Pond Road at Gordon Highway.

"However, this does not mean that Augusta Video may immediately open its doors. ... Augusta Video must still comply with the remaining valid requirements of Augusta's original Zoning Ordinance," the three-judge panel of the appellate court wrote.

The X-Mart owners must obtain a business tax certificate and an adult-entertainment establishment permit in order to open.

The federal appeals ruling this week reverses part of U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr.'s November ruling in the case.

The litigious path of X-Mart began in 2002, when the Augusta Planning Commission cleared the company. City commissioners, however, denied a special permit in June 2002.

The X-Mart owners have made many trips to court over the years.

Attorneys have argued - and judges issued reasonings - over a convergence of prior court cases, laws and ordinances dealing with the First Amendment and adult entertainment businesses.

Messages left for Jim Wall, who represents the city in the case, and Thomas E. Maddox Jr., who represents the business's owners, were not returned Friday.

The federal appeals court ruled against X-Mart in its challenge to the city's new adult entertainment ordinance. Though X-Mart's location cannot be scratched because of the new ordinance's zoning limitations, the other provisions are constitutional, the court ruled.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.