OKLAHOMA CITY—It's hard enough these days to find a venue where a retailer can open an adult boutique—even one that doesn't sell hardcore videos—and in 2017, Andrew and Lennox Ryerson-Gonzales thought they'd found one at the corner of NW 70th and May Avenue in Oklahoma City. After all, they scoured the city's laws, looking for adult business regulations that might give them a problem—even though they consider their Adam & Eve franchise store to be simply a retail outlet rather than an adult novelty business. And the couple did their due diligence in learning how to run their business, even going so far as to take Eldorado Trading Company's "Elevate U" training course for retailers, and coming to the inaugural Altitude Show in 2017 to share their experiences with newer retailers.
And the store is particularly tame, featuring lingerie and lotions in the front, while keeping their tiny stock of sex toys mostly out of sight in the back.
But for some reason that has yet to be explained, Oklahoma City had passed a "setback" ordinance in 1997 that required any "adult novelty store" (which, again, the Ryerson-Gonzalezes don't consider themselves to be) to be at least 1,000 feet from "sensitive uses" such as homes, schools, churches and parks—but that law doesn't show up in searches of the city's zoning codes. Moreover, according to a story reported by News9-TV, "Like other ordinances, the rule is only enforced when and if the city gets a complaint."
And this past January, someone made a complaint—though the city refuses to identify the complainer—and the Ryerson-Gonzalezes feel that they've been unfairly targeted, especially since there are several other retailers nearby, including some drug stores, that sell adult novelties but against whom the city has taken no action.
"It’s very discriminatory and there’s things that need to be addressed,” Andrew Ryerson-Gonzales told News9.
City Councilman Ed Shadid seemed to understand the problem, and even suggested, since several stores appear to also be in violation, getting the city's ordinance repealed as "outdated" and leaving enforcement up to the state, which passed its own law that mirrored Oklahoma City's. But at the City Council meeting held earlier today, Shadid's motion was voted down by a vote of 6-2.
"I just don't think that every time somebody makes a mistake as to where they build something, where they lease something, where they buy something, and it conflicts with an ordinance, we can't just go repeal ordinances to correct the problem," remarked City Councilman Mark Stonecipher during the meeting.
But the Ryerson-Gonzalezes, who sank their entire 401K savings into the building and franchise, plan to keep the store open while they officially apply to be the exception to the rule, even in light of the council's vote. They say they'd like ot avoid a court battle, but that if it comes to that, they're ready.