Porn magnate Larry Flynt's retail chain -- coming soon to a storefront in the Uptown area of Minneapolis -- is too close to a community school, too close to a synagogue, and too close to their homes, a group of frustrated neighborhood residents said Monday.
More than three dozen residents showed up at a community meeting at Common Roots Cafe on Monday night. But the group left frustrated after learning that there is little they can do to make the store feel unwelcome without risking a lawsuit.
A city official confirmed earlier Monday that a Hustler Hollywood store plans to open at 2405 Hennepin Av. S. The space was previously occupied by a green products retailer.
City Council Member Meg Tuthill, who lives about three blocks away, said that although she finds the store distasteful, it has constitutionally guaranteed free speech rights and apparently plans to comply with the restrictions set by city ordinances on adult-oriented use.
Zoning laws require that sex-oriented materials can account for only 15 percent or 500 square feet of a store's total area, whichever is smaller. Some goods, however, such as risque clothing, might be categorized as general merchandise, Tuthill said.
The councilwoman said she, too, has been frustrated because she hasn't been able to get the owner of the property to tell her the length of the store's lease or exactly what it will be selling.
Once it opens, city officials definitely will be checking that the store abides by the rules, Tuthill said. Already the city has nixed the store's proposed signage, and the tenants haven't submitted a new proposal.
Brian Longe, a business owner who said he lives on Lake of the Isles, was particularly frustrated when he learned the Hustler store was legal.
"I don't want to live near it," he said. "It's not close to me, but I have an 8-year-old daughter who can't walk on Hennepin now?"
Longe suggested prohibiting parking on Hennepin Avenue, which he said might make the store find another location, but Tuthill said that wasn't something she could support.
"If you prohibit parking, all the other stores on Hennepin will roll up and die," she said.
There is, however, a bus stop in front of the storefront that isn't going anywhere, she said.
Another resident was more optimistic, saying that other retailers who have tried to make good in that spot haven't lasted a year. Hustler Hollywood isn't likely to last either, she said.
Tuthill said it would be up to the group or to individuals whether they wanted to picket the store when it opens. When that has been tried in other cities, it has resulted in a lot of free publicity for the stores; then, Flynt sues and wins, she said.
What residents can do, she said, is work with elected officials on changing the city's zoning laws so that the next time an objectionable store wants to open, the city has some clout to stop it.
Mary Hartnett, a laid-off state employee who lives about two blocks from the planned store, organized Monday's community meeting. She objects to the location in part because of the clientele she fears it will attract and in part because it lies across an intersection from Temple Israel and less than two blocks from Jefferson Community School, whose students range from kindergarten through eighth grade.
"I'm concerned that it would attract people that are interested in purchasing hard-core pornography," Hartnett said. She also said she was concerned about sex offenders living nearby and the effect on them.
Tuthill pointed out that there are several other sex-oriented retail stores in the area: Smitten Kitten, Fantasy Gifts, Venus and the Cockpit Project. The Cockpit, a leather and fetish store, is even closer to Temple Israel than the Hustler store.
Hustler Hollywood's website lists 11 retail locations, starting with a California store that opened in West Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard in 1988. The website bills the stores as offering a spectrum of adult entertainment and retail products. It describes its stores as offering "tasteful, bright and upscale" design.
A call to the firm was not immediately returned Monday.