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OKC sex shops debate focuses on age limits

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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]

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]

Discussion at the Oklahoma City Council turned Tuesday to whether age restrictions would be best for limiting children's exposure to stores carrying sex toys and related products.

The council held a public hearing on Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid's proposal to rescind a 1997 ordinance restricting where "adult novelty stores" can be located.

The ordinance broadly defines sex shops and states the intent of keeping children away. It forbids the shops within 1,000 feet of homes, churches, parks, playgrounds, libraries and schools.

The council revisited the ordinance after a code enforcement officer issued a "notice of violation" to Adam & Eve, an upscale business that opened in November in Shadid's ward.

The Adam & Eve franchise at 2905 NW 70 St. is operated by Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez, who also have an Adam & Eve shop in Norman.

In December, they told the city council they felt they were being singled out unfairly. The city said code enforcement was responding to a complaint.

Shadid proposed rescinding the ordinance, saying it seemed outdated. The 1,000-foot restriction amounted to "basically, the entire city," he said.

Adam & Eve offers classes on topics such as sexual education and health in addition to stocking products for adults. Children under 18 aren't allowed inside.

At the public hearing, Andrew Ryerson-Gonzalez said council members should "try to get a feel for how we are … not just as a retailer but as a good neighbor."

He said he recently went to the Spencer's gifts at Penn Square Mall and "was actually floored" by the quantity of adult-oriented merchandise Spencer's carries.

He said there was "no delineation, if you are under 18 you can't go beyond this point. When I was in there, there were a number of youth that were in there and giggling or what have you."

Ryerson-Gonzalez said there was nothing in the ordinance setting an age limit to enter the stores.

Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner said he thought there was merit in restrictions based on age rather than distance from places frequented by children.

Kevin Mahoney, general counsel for Spencer Gifts LLC, said Spencer's stores have never been found to qualify as adult novelty shops under ordinances in effect across the country.

He said the New Jersey-based retailer has 700 stores. Commonly, he said, ordinances setting limits on sales of adult products base restrictions on sales, inventory and floor space.

"We always remain compliant and never been deemed an adult business under any adult-oriented business ordinance," Mahoney said.

The city council is to vote March 13 on rescinding the ordinance.

Adam & Eve has been notified it is too close to homes but has not been cited under the ordinance. A citation could require an appearance in Municipal Court.

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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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