NJ Adult Retailer Adds Counts to Lawsuit

CHERRY HILL, N.J. — Union County-based Partners 70 received permission Tuesday from a Superior Court judge to amend its lawsuit against the township of Cherry Hill.

Partners 70 is now suing Cherry Hill for violating the partnership's constitutional and civil rights in revisions to a zoning ordinance that blocks the business from operation.

Partners 70 head Jim Restaino operates adult stores throughout New Jersey, and wants to place this new store in a location adjacent to a residential neighborhood. Cherry Hill revised its zoning ordinance in March; Restaino alleges that the restrictive laws are overly broad and deny people access to First Amendment-protected sexual material.

Restaino also claims that the town's zoning ordinances have caused him to lose considerable money in legal fees and profits, a complaint the township questions, according to Cherry Hill attorney Richard Goldstein.

Both sides gathered about 10 depositions this fall from expert witnesses and key players, said Partners 70 attorney Sylvia Hall, including Mayor Bernie Platt and township councilmembers.

Restaino gave the township depositions in September that were supposed to be completed by Dec. 4, but presiding Superior Court Judge Michael Kassel granted an extension because new information was entered shortly beforehand to the record.

Said township spokesman Dan Keashen, "The mayor will continue to fight against the invasion of deviant businesses and the sale of explicit material from corrupting our strong neighborhoods and family values in Cherry Hill."

Partners 70 first sued Cherry Hill in 2005 and took it to trial in June 2006, but both sides decided to try settling out of court. Under a consent order between them, the proposed store would have dedicated its front half to regular videos and its back half to adult merchandise. In addition, the adult section would have had a separate, locked entrance through which clerks would buzz customers after checking their IDs, and no viewing booths would have been installed.

The township's insurance carrier had agreed to pay Partners 70 $225,000 to settle the lawsuit, but the township never signed the consent order. Rumors that it was nearing doing so incited an uproar among Cherry Hill residents.