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Plan for adult store raises a few eyebrows

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
Oct. 2, 2012 at 10:01 p.m.


In a curve on FRJ Drive - a road between Cotton Street and U.S. 80 - a new metal building sits ready while owners wait for approval of a license to open a sexually oriented business.

Surrounded by light industry, it's a different kind of business that hopes to start up at 55 FRJ Drive.

The shop, owned by Gregg County Video Inc., is to be named Venus, and will sell everything from racy lingerie, clothing and shoes to sexually explicit toys and adult videos.

Many of Venus' long-established neighbors aren't thrilled about the prospect of a retail sex shop in their midst.

"We do not like it in the least bit," said Birne Wiley, founder and president of Missionary Tech Team, a nonprofit, non-denominational organization that provides technical support for Christian ministries around the globe.

Wiley said if he had his way, there would be no place for sexually oriented businesses in Longview, period. But, certainly not five doors down in the industrial park where his business has flourished since 1975.

Wiley said the area already attracts elements of questionable behavior after hours. And now, he said he expects more.

"We've had trouble at that corner even before this place was going on. It attracts people parking in driveways. There have been used condoms thrown out in our drive. We've already got unsavory traffic at night," Wiley said.

Since the new business filed an application Sept. 13, Wiley said he has canvassed the business community on FRJ Drive, and determined Venus is not welcome.

"The women I've talked to are fearful of the type clientele that is going to come here," Wiley said. "I am a Christian unashamedly. It violates the Judeo-Christian ethic that our nation was founded on. Whenever that kind of business goes in, the moral fiber of the community is severely impacted."

Angie Hayden, a secretary at Longview Fab and Machine Shop, the neighboring business to Venus, said she and her co-workers were shocked to find out what type of business was going in next door.

"We expected it to be something along the lines of something else around here. We never thought we'd be located next door to a business like that," Hayden said.

Though a sign went up this past week, the least little wind blows it over, and it seldom is visible for any length of time, Hayden said.

According to the city ordinance, as part of the application process, a sign must be erected at the proposed location. Those signs must be clearly visible from the road.

"I don't think they will fit in with industry. We've all discussed our opinions since we saw the sign, and what we can do to prevent it," Hayden said.

As long as the business has complied with the city's sexually oriented business ordinance, there's not much than can be done, said Shawn Hara, spokesman for the city of Longview.

For a sexually oriented business to be approved to operate in Longview, the business and it's employees must be licensed.

Longview's chief of police has 30 days from the time an application is submitted to determine whether the business, and its employees, meet the ordinance criteria for licensing.

Sexually oriented businesses cannot operate within 1,000 feet of a church, a public or private elementary or secondary school, a licensed child daycare facility, a residential dwelling unit in which one or more person maintains a residence, a public park, hospital or other sexually oriented businesses.

Gregg County Video Inc. President and Director Robert Duggan said the business meets all provisions of the city's ordinance.

Though there are two other sexually oriented businesses in Longview - Private Pleasures at 222 W. Tyler St., and The Adult Super Store at 55205 West Loop 281 - this will be Duggan's first in Longview.

He owns another similar business in Kilgore, Texas Adult Video and Toys, as well as shops in Missouri and Arkansas.

The Kilgore site made headlines less than a year ago when store clerk Renee Garrett was murdered during a robbery on Jan. 10, 2011 - exactly what Wiley said he fears.

"That's what's going to result in the area out there," he said. "They built it in a secluded area to stay under the radar."

Duggan said he plans to expand the product line in Longview - a city he says is largely unserved.

"We have a lot of Longview customers that come over to Kilgore," Duggan said.

Duggan said the company plans to hire eight to 10 employees who will earn about $15 per hour.

Though store hours have not yet been determined, he expects Venus to operate much like the Kilgore store, from 10 a.m. until midnight and a little later on weekends.

City Councilman Wayne Frost, whose District 4 includes the proposed sexually-oriented business, said Longview does not need another one.

"I don't particularly care for it; we don't need it. I don't understand why we have to have those kind of things when we already have a problem on Highway 80," Frost said.

Though U.S. 80 is home to several topless clubs, they do not fit the city's criteria for a sexually oriented business, Hara said.

The ordinance has built-in restrictions based on case law throughout the country, Hara said.

"You cannot make it to where it is impossible for them to get a license," Hara said.

Longview police are still investigating whether the proposed store adheres to the city's sexually oriented business ordinance.

If the chief of police does not act on the application in the 30-day time period, a temporary license can be issued until a decision is reached.

Frost said he has received numerous complaints from the nearby businesses since the application was filed.

"I have empathy for these people. This is not something you want in your neighborhood; I don't care what type of neighborhood it is," Frost said. "But, it may be too late. If it meets all the criteria, I'm afraid there is nothing they can do to stop it."

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