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Adult businesses feeling the pressure

Residents in Hudson want to push the shops along U.S. 19 somewhere else. But the businesses' owners say they're in for a fight.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 2001


HUDSON -- Festooned with white Christmas lights at U.S. 19 and Sea Ranch Drive, Suncoast Modeling and Lingerie Sales isn't bashful about what goes on behind its blackened windows.

The business, housed in a former chamber of commerce building, advertises teen lesbians, bondage, fetishes involving bodily functions and "much more."

Needless to say, many people who pass the business each day to reach homes near the Gulf of Mexico aren't happy about living near what they consider a brothel.

"What's that movie, the biggest little whorehouse in town? Well, we've got it here," said Dolores Reger, spokeswoman for a group of 380 people who have petitioned to clean up Hudson.

She's found a porn-busting ally in Pasco County. Come April, the county plans a two-pronged assault to eradicate Suncoast Modeling and Lingerie and other like-minded establishments clustered on U.S. 19 in Hudson.

The first part of the operation is enforcement of an ordinance, approved in October 1999, that banishes adult establishments to industrial parks no later than this April.

The second prong of the attack begins Tuesday as county commissioners hold the first hearing of a sexually oriented business ordinance that forbids employee-customer contact and establishes a three-strikes-you're-out policy for violations.

Existing rules, including sporadically enforced laws against prostitution, regulate much of what goes on inside these businesses.

But those rules have not put a dent in the spread of lingerie studios, massage parlors, adult bookstores and go-go bars, which now number more than a dozen.

Despite the April relocation deadline for adult businesses, owners aren't switching off the neon just yet.

"No one's budged," county attorney Robert Sumner said. "After April, we intend to seek to have them removed from these locations."

The attitude of many of the businesses owners: Bring it on, Sumner.

Heather Fox, the 27-year-old owner of Suncoast Modeling and Lingerie, said her business is about fantasy fulfillment, not prostitution.

Fox said she supports, for the sake of her employees, the proposed ordinance banning touching. As for the relocation ordinance, Fox is ready to fight.

"No one's leaving. I have an attorney," Fox said. "We're honest people. We're not doing anything wrong. We're behind closed doors. We're not hurting anybody."

Fox and several other business owners have hired Luke Lirot, a Tampa attorney.

Lirot's latest claim to fame is his defense of Tampa strip club baron Joe Redner, owner of the Mons Venus club on Dale Mabry Highway.

In addition to Suncoast Lingerie, Lirot represents three U.S. 19 dance clubs featuring scantily clad women: Player's Club, Lollipops and Calendar Girls, as well as 42nd St. Videos.

Lollipops owner Robert Mansur said the county ordinance should distinguish between his business, which he calls "exotic" entertainment, from massage parlors and adult book stores, which he labels "adult" entertainment.

Most of the massage and lingerie operations that have brought the wrath of neighbors are fly-by-night operations in leased buildings, Mansur said. His bar, which he owns and operates himself, has been around for a decade.

"You going to pay for me to move to an industrial park?" Mansur said at a recent meeting to discuss the ordinance. "It'll cost me $200,000 to move. "I've got to fight for my rights."

The county is leaning toward Mansur's point of view. Sumner said his office is preparing an "administrative remedy" to exempt established go-go bars from relocating.

"They may be in a better position to say, 'We were vested and you can't do away with our vested rights,' " Sumner said.

On the other hand, the county plans to go full bore against lingerie studios, which Sumner said harbor "pure prostitution."

Sumner said he was disgusted after glancing at a Web site for Suncoast Lingerie featuring oral sex and sales of unwashed women's panties.

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