THE WEDGE — Larry Flynt’s Hollywood Hustler is coming to 24th & Hennepin, and it appears there is little concerned neighbors can do to stop it.
That was the theme of an impromptu and jam-packed July 11 meeting at Common Roots Café attended by City Council Member Meg Tuthill (10th Ward) and more than three dozen residents who live near 2405 Hennepin Ave. S., which will be the site of the 12th Hollywood Hustler store in the nation.
The store will sell sex toys, sexy clothing, books and pornography. No dancing or peep shows will be allowed, as hosting “entertainment” requires a city license Hustler isn’t seeking.
Images of other Hollywood Hustlers from the company’s website show stores that are often adorned with large neon signs and red lettering.
At the beginning of the meeting, Tuthill told attendees that since Hollywood Hustler doesn’t require any variances from the city, she and other city leaders are powerless to prevent the store from opening.
“There’s still an issue of freedom of speech in this country,” she said, adding later that “there are laws in this country and we have to follow them.”
Her comments didn’t placate upset area residents, some of whom suggested the city explore imposing stringent parking restrictions on Hennepin to make it difficult for customers to get to the store.
Brian Longe, a business owner who lives on Lake of the Isles, went as far as to say he would consider relocating his business from the Twin Cities if Hollywood Hustler opens.
Longe said “this is a lovely place to live but I’m getting fed up. I have an 8-year-old daughter, and now she can’t walk down Hennepin Avenue?”
Another resident, Larry Moran, chair of the Kenwood Isles Area Association’s Zoning Committee and a Minneapolis resident for more than 30 years, said after the meeting he understood Hustler has constitutional rights but hopes the zoning code can be changed to prevent more adult stores from opening outside of downtown.
“Yes, constitutionally protected businesses have a right to be there but neighbors have a right as a group to live in the type of neighborhood they want to have,” he said. “Maybe we should be able to have a say and restrict those businesses to certain neighborhoods.”
Reached for comment later in the week, Tuthill said she isn’t happy about Hustler coming to 24th & Hennepin, but added “my personal opinion has nothing to do with what people have a legal right to do.
“It will be a very cold day in hell
when I tell people what they can read, see and purchase,” she said. “It’s a very slippery slope.”
Though there is little the city can do to prevent Hustler from opening, the store will have to comply with zoning regulations pertaining to the sale of sexual materials at retail businesses.
Those regulations require that sexual materials can account for just 15 percent or 500 square feet of a store’s total retail space, whichever is less.
In the past, however, the city has defined “sexual material” in a quite liberal way.
For instance, Clare Jacky, manager of Smitten Kitten, said pornography is the only product sold in her store that is considered a sexual material. Sex toys and other items are considered novelty products and hence aren’t subject to the 15 percent regulation. In fact, novelty products can be sold to minors.
“Thank god, you don’t have to be 18 to buy a vibrator,” Jacky said, adding that, of course, Smitten Kitten doesn’t allow minors to look at or purchase pornography.
Senior City Planner Brad Ellis said that as a rule of practice, the city has only considered products depicting genitalia to be sexual materials.
“We do have an article in the zoning code pertaining to sex-orientated uses,” he said, but since Hustler plans to abide by the 15 percent or 500 square feet regulation, “this store falls under general retail.”
Tuthill said Hollywood Hustler has already spent more than $350,000 renovating the interior of 2405 Hennepin, which used to be Twin Cities Green, a eco-friendly retailer that has since rebranded as Moss Envy with a new location in St. Louis Park.
An employee reached at Hustler’s corporate headquarters wouldn’t comment on when the company plans to open its Minneapolis location.
At the Common Roots meeting, some neighbors opposed to the new sex shop took solace in the fact that 2405 Hennepin has been home to a string of failed businesses. Part of the problem is that a busy bus stop is located right in front of the commercial space, making parking difficult.
The meeting was organized by Wedge resident Mary Harnett, who heard about Hustler’s expansion into Minneapolis from her god son, an employee at neighboring Fifth Element.
Harnett said she is concerned that the store will attract people who are interested in hardcore pornography to her neighborhood. Jacky, however, said such fears are probably overblown.
“I think the clientele [at Hollywood Hustler] are people just like everybody else,” she said.