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Adult Entertainment Firm Suit Challenges City Code

February 23, 1988|MICHAEL CONNELLY and KIM MURPHY | Times Staff Writers

A North Hollywood adult entertainment establishment filed a federal lawsuit against Los Angeles on Monday challenging enforcement of a municipal code that prevents the business from offering more than one kind of entertainment.

The suit by New Wave Inc., which operates Venus Faire at 6452 Lankershim Blvd., centers on a 1978 code designed to avoid the clustering of adult entertainment businesses by allowing one such business per building.

Venus Faire is a single business divided into three sections--an adult book shop, an adult video arcade and a nude-dancing cabaret--said Robert Sarno, its attorney.

Sarno said the city has decided the three sections are separate adult businesses. Last month it ordered Venus Faire, in operation for five years, to comply with the zoning law by closing two of the sections, he said.

The lawsuit says that the order violates constitutional rights of free speech and expression and asks that the city be restrained from enforcing it.

"It is our position that the city has come up with an arbitrary definition that if two components of your business are adult, they should be separated," Sarno said. "They've taken that law and I think they're applying it against one proprietor who in one location divides up his floor space. We think that's just totally unreasonable."

Sarno said a plan by Venus Faire to shift its book and video offerings to mostly non-adult material has not been accepted by the city as a means of complying with the order. "They want sort of an all-or-nothing interpretation," he said.

Claudia McGee Henry, in charge of the land-use division of the city attorney's office, told United Press International on Monday that the suit had no merit and would be fought by the city.

Sarno said that, like Venus Faire, most adult businesses in the city offer more than one service. Most are a combination video arcade and bookstore, he said.

"It's the nature of the business," he said.

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