When is an adult bookstore a dirty bookstore? When is it just a store with adult books?
The heat of anger generated by the debut of the F Street Bookstore in Escondido has not cooled since city officials first alleged that the adult-oriented shop opened illegally four months ago.
While F Street owners have been cheered by good business, city attorneys continue their attempts to prove that the store is a porno shop operating in a zoning area that outlaws such establishments.
Definition at Issue
Jeffrey Epp, deputy city attorney, said there are two lawsuits under appeal concerning the Grand Avenue store.
At the heart of the suits and the dispute between Escondido and F Street owner Fais Ondor and building owner Gojko Vasic is the muddled definition of what kind of store F Street is and is not.
Epp and other Escondido officials say the store is a sex shop in disguise, a place where obscene books and magazines are peddled behind the cover of an ordinary book store.
This is against downtown zoning laws, Epp said.
"It's a typical adult bookstore," he said, adding that the owners "sell other items and say, 'Hey, we're not an adult bookstore.' "
Thomas Homann disagrees. He is the attorney representing the F Street Corp., which owns or has an interest in the six F Street Bookstores in San Diego County.
He said that less than 50% of the merchandise in his client's stores is adult-oriented.
"The whole thrust of the company is away from the classic dirty bookstore," Homann said. "We offer a much wider variety of merchandise."
Seen as Bad Precedent
But some in Escondido have worried that the bookstore will be a bad influence on local residents. Fred Vaught, a spokesman for Citizens Opposing Pornography, has strongly opposed the store since its opening.
"It is my personal opinion that it is not in the city's best interest to allow an establishment like that to get a foothold in the community," Vaught said.
But Homann said Escondido has nothing to fear from the F Street Bookstore. "My clients do not encourage (illicit) sexual activity; in fact they discourage it," Homann said. "They are not in the business of running an escort service."
Escondido City Manager Vern Hazen said that the city will continue looking into the "legal issues" of the F Street case because Escondido has many interests to protect.
"We have to be as tight as we can with regulations (in the future) so no other adult bookstores can sneak into downtown," Hazen said.
He said Escondido's future financial interests are the reason for the precautions.
"A lot of people are putting a lot of money into downtown, and we don't need any negative influences," Hazen said. "There will be a lot of nice restaurants and financial offices going up, and we don't need any porno shops."
Litigation surrounding the F Street case could go on for months, Epp said.