Forest Hill Mayor Gerald Joubert isn't thrilled that people who stop by the neighborhood Starbucks may get a jolt they didn't expect.
Patrons intending to pick up a cup of joe and maybe a movie at what used to be a Blockbuster store will find a Christal's there instead, a store that sells everything from vibrators to lingerie adorned with pictures of Marilyn Monroe.
Joubert and other city leaders spoke out against that kind of store moving into town. But it's legal because the sale of "adult" items makes up less than 25 percent of its business.
"All we can do is tell citizens this is something that we are not in favor of," Joubert said, adding that he would rather have a sit-down restaurant next to the Starbucks.
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Joubert and other civic leaders have discovered that Christal's and stores like it are expanding across the state after a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2008 overturned the Texas law banning the sale or promotion of certain obscene devices.
Steven Swander, an attorney who represents Christal's, said the "percentage stores" -- a reference to how much of the inventory is sexual in nature -- are becoming more prevalent across the state.
"The 5th Circuit said it was a violation of sexual privacy," Swander said. "Before the ruling, there were percentage stores, but they couldn't sell anatomical products. There is more demand today."
The lawsuit that eventually overturned the ban was filed in an Austin federal court in 2004 by several companies that owned Dreamers and Adam & Eve stores, establishments that specialized in movies and novelties that were more explicit in nature.
The companies contended that the ban on selling sexual devices was unconstitutional. Initially, their suit was dismissed, but they won their appeal in the 5th Circuit, which said the Texas law violated the 14th Amendment guaranteeing the right to privacy. The justices also cited the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that overturned the state's sodomy law, which banned consensual sex between gay couples.
The decision allowed the percentage stores, which catered mostly to women and couples in neighborhood retail locations, to sell some adult products, including sex toys and those that display nudity or a sexual act.
Percentage stores still have to comply with ordinances and regulations that vary from city to city. Those regulations determine what percentage of "adult products" can be sold and displayed so that they avoid being defined as a sexually oriented business, which allow on-premises viewing of videos and other entertainment as well as live performances.
But the devil is still in the details.
Confusion over rules
This year, the Forest Hill City Council rejected a proposal to create an adult entertainment district, and Joubert said he thought the decision meant that Christal's and similar stores couldn't locate in the city.
But Christal's met all of the guidelines, and the council reluctantly allowed the store to install a 40-foot- tall "pole sign" along Southeast Loop 820 saying, "Oils, Gifts and Lingerie," the same wording it has on its signs elsewhere.
Councilman Bob Shanklin said he begrudgingly approved the Christal's sign request, but added: "To be honest, it looks like the devil to me."
In Fort Worth, the threshold for percentage stores is 35 percent. But confusion over the rules has led to a well-publicized fight over The Velvet Box, an upscale boutique in far north Fort Worth. In this instance, the store is facing a lawsuit from Hillwood, the company that owns Alliance Town Center, although the Fort Worth Police Department has said it is a novelty store and not a sexually oriented business.
The city's zoning definitions state that the 35 percent criterion will be determined by the amount of floor space utilized, the inventory of items for sale or rent, or the gross revenue of the business measured over 90 days.
In Fort Worth, the major concern has been more about typical sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs that have set up shop in the more industrial parts of north Fort Worth.
"The main issue has always been about location," said Councilman Sal Espino, whose district includes the north side. "I do have concerns about this ordinance. What it has essentially done is allow a congregation of sexually oriented businesses along I-35W. We have a red-light district essentially at I-35 and Loop 820. We've looked at changing it, but you can only restrict their locations so much."
Arlington sets a higher threshold of 50 percent and looks at factors such as floor space and how items are displayed, said Assistant City Attorney Kathleen Weisskopf.
At Christal's, regional manager Julia Anderson said she expects business to be brisk in Forest Hill. The chain, based in Golden, Colo., was forced out of Kennedale because of a lawsuit the city filed against a cluster of adult businesses.
The weak economy isn't putting a damper on sales, Anderson said.
"Adult entertainment is expensive away from home, so more people are staying home," she said.
Staff writer Bill Hanna contributed to this report.