Hustler Hollywood Sues Indianapolis Over Adult Zoning

INDIANAPOLIS, IN—Despite the fact (or possibly because of it) that Vice President-elect Mike Pence is the governor of Indiana, Hustler Hollywood is trying to open one of its boutiques in the Indianapolis suburb of Castleton, but thanks to neighborhood opposition, the Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals and the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services have both given thumbs-down on the project, despite the fact that the company, officially "HH-Indianapolis, Inc.," "analyzed its projected inventory, floor space and revenue, determining that it would easily operate below the threshold for triggering a designation of an adult entertainment business," according to the lawsuit filed yesterday in Southern Indiana District Court.

Hustler Hollywood first scouted the area in early 2016, in the process speaking with city officials about how to make sure the store's stock wouldn't run afoul of city zoning ordinances, and satisfied that the store would meet non-adult guidelines, signed a 10-year commercial lease for the property at 5505 E. 82nd St. in Castleton—which just happens to be next to a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. That fact seems to have sparked most of the protest, especially from City-County Councilor Christine Scales, according to an Indianapolis Business Journal report.

According to the suit papers, "On March 23, 2016, Mark R. Leach, Senior Planner for the City, confirmed Plaintiff's understanding that, under the Ordinance, an 'Adult Bookstore' would consist of: An estblishment having at least 25% of its: 1) Retail floor space used for the display of adult products; or 2) Stock in trade consisting of adult products; or 3) Weekly revenue derived from adult products." Leach then went on to describe what "adult products" would consist of, and "Based on those representations Plaintiff analyzed its projected inventory, floor space and revenue, determining that it would easily operate below the threshold for triggering a designation as an Adult Entertainment Business."

It was based on the discussions with Leach that Hustler Hollywood entered into the lease agreement, but thanks to a snafu on Hustler Hollywood's part in attempting to obtain a variance for its signage, it gave city officials the impression that the store's inventory would mirror the company's online inventory, which consists of much more adult material than would be allowable under Castleton's zoning regulations. Hustler Hollywood refiled its dislosure documents, but the damage had been done, and the city began rejecting all of the store's applications.

Most recently, counsel for the store attended a hearing on December 6, 2016, before the Board of Zoning Appeals, trying to set the record straight regarding the store's inventory, but the appeal was denied, leaing to the current federal court action.

In the suit, Hustler Hollywood is claiming violations of its First Amendment free speech rights, as well as its rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of equal protections under the law. The suit also asks that the defendants be prohibited from enforcing the "adult business" provisions of the zoning regulations against the store.