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OKC challenges adult novelty shop

Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez opened their Adam & Eve franchise in November in Oklahoma City. They received a notice from the city that their store's location violates 1990s-era restrictions on adult novelty stores. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman]

Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez opened their Adam & Eve franchise in November in Oklahoma City. They received a notice from the city that their store's location violates 1990s-era restrictions on adult novelty stores. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman]

Opening an upscale adult novelty store led to a lesson in local justice for Andrew and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez: Oklahoma City only enforces certain laws if somebody complains.

The businessmen opened their Adam & Eve franchise Nov. 17 just off May Avenue at NW 70.

Brightly lit with attractive furnishings and a strong online presence, Adam & Eve occupies the high end of a trade that city ordinances and state law refer to as "adult novelty shops."

The businessmen say Adam & Eve had been open only three days when they were notified they were violating restrictions on adult entertainment.

That notice was rescinded the same day. But a week later they were handed a new notice, saying their store violated a prohibition on adult novelty shops within 1,000 feet of residential property.

Lingerie stores, pharmacies and adult novelty shops all sell similar products, they say, yet only Adam & Eve is being singled out.

They point to one adult novelty shop just down May Avenue from their store that operates despite being near a school, church and homes.

"I don't know where this is coming from," Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez said.

City Manager Jim Couch had one answer when the businessmen brought their concerns last month to the city council, asked by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid to appear.

While Andrew and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez live in Norman, where they have an Adam & Eve franchise on East Main Street, their Oklahoma City location is in Shadid's ward.

"For seven years I've heard city attorneys, city staff say that we have ordinances and we enforce them based on complaints," Shadid said.

"That cannot be the city standard of justice and fairness," he said. "That just seems inherently biased."

Couch replied that the city has limited resources to proactively enforce its ordinances.

"When we are made aware of the situation," he said, "we do enforce the code."

Complaint taken

In the case of Adam & Eve, records show the city received a complaint the same day the store opened.

Under the heading "Reported Concern" the complaint form reads, "No licenses or permits. Adult entertainment store. Plus business operations are from 10 a.m.-12 a.m."

The complaint was referred to code enforcement for follow-up.

A code enforcement officer issued a "notice of violation" on Nov. 20 for offering adult entertainment and, after that was rescinded, another on Nov. 27 for being too close to homes.

The city so far has not disclosed who complained.

Adopted in 1997, the same year a similar state law took effect, Section 30-407 of the Municipal Code forbids adult novelty shops within 1,000 feet of residences, parks or playgrounds, libraries, schools, or churches, synagogues, mosques or temples.

The Oklahoma County assessor's mapping application shows some stores selling products similar to those carried by Adam & Eve are within 1,000 feet of residences, while others are not.

One upscale lingerie and accessories retailer that is more than 1,000 feet from the nearest residence is Hustler Hollywood, which opened in 2014 at 500 S Meridian Ave.

Hustler Magazine founder Larry Flynt owns the chain. Flynt told The Oklahoman in 2014 that his attorneys "spent months" working out zoning issues with the city before the store opened.

Principle, effect

"It's basically the whole city," Shadid said. He said the ordinance "to me seems outdated."

"Is that the language we are seriously going to use," he asked, "with people who are trying to operate businesses and generate sales tax?"

Couch observed there was an underlying principle expressed by a previous council to be considered.

The ordinance is prefaced by a statement of "findings and purpose" that include a section saying children should be protected from exposure to "instruments, devices, or paraphernalia designed or marketed primarily for use to stimulate human genital organs."

The city manager said the language "may be outdated but we have to decide from a fundamental standpoint — do we want the overarching principle to change?"

'New normal'

The businessmen said children are not allowed in Adam & Eve.

Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez said, though, that products that may have been associated with "the old '70s truck stop sort of things" are promoted and sold today by a wide variety of retailers.

"Personally," he said, "I think times have changed."

"I think the discussion on positive sex and sexuality between consenting adults and increasing intimate behavior in couples, which strengthens families, is kind of the new normal."

Andrew and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez so far have received only a "notice of violation," a step short of a criminal citation that would pull them into Municipal Court.

Shadid said last week he planned to introduce a measure to rescind Section 30-407.

A similarly worded state statute exists, and Shadid said he would rather not have city officials figuring out how to enforce this particular city ordinance.

"It's a mess and it's not right to put Oklahoma City employees in this position," Shadid said. "There's all kinds of similar stores throughout the 620 square miles of the city.

"I asked the municipal counselor, 'Hey, what are our options?'" Shadid said. "One possible idea I floated today was what if we rescinded the city code. That takes our staff out of the equation."

Shadid said he plans to put forth an official recommendation to the city council at the next regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 30.

Related Photos
<p>Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez say many retailers today carry products that once were found only in edgy sex shops. Their Adam & Eve store is part of a trend in upscale shopping choices for adults. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman]</p>

Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez say many retailers today carry products that once were found only in edgy sex shops. Their Adam & Eve store is part of a trend in upscale shopping choices for adults. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b8fe3a4b78317284d447449b7447c60f.jpg" alt="Photo - Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez say many retailers today carry products that once were found only in edgy sex shops. Their Adam & Eve store is part of a trend in upscale shopping choices for adults. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman] " title=" Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez say many retailers today carry products that once were found only in edgy sex shops. Their Adam & Eve store is part of a trend in upscale shopping choices for adults. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez say many retailers today carry products that once were found only in edgy sex shops. Their Adam & Eve store is part of a trend in upscale shopping choices for adults. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-21a5bec785e9a488d2e8dade9042ff1e.jpg" alt="Photo - Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez opened their Adam & Eve franchise in November in Oklahoma City. They received a notice from the city that their store's location violates 1990s-era restrictions on adult novelty stores. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman] " title=" Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez opened their Adam & Eve franchise in November in Oklahoma City. They received a notice from the city that their store's location violates 1990s-era restrictions on adult novelty stores. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez, left, and Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez opened their Adam & Eve franchise in November in Oklahoma City. They received a notice from the city that their store's location violates 1990s-era restrictions on adult novelty stores. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›

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