Sakas Walks Out Of Arbitration With New Bern

NEW BERN, N.C. -  Officials in New Bern still seem to think they can paper Pure Bliss owner Sakas to death - but the retailer isn't going to stand for it.

Sakas won his case in circuit court here when a judge ruled that his video store did not have a preponderance of adult products, and therefore didn't have to get a special license from New Bern. This week, he walked out of an arbitration proceeding on his federal civil rights suit against the city.

"We gave them a bottom line of what revenue I've actually lost to date, and we said we'd leave that number on the table for two weeks," Sakas told AVN. "Realistically, I don't know if that's going to happen; I doubt it. They also made stipulations on how we're going to run the store, having to bundle up a general DVD with an adult, a pack of magazines with three comicbooks, for example; they want financial statements from the CPA on a quarterly basis; they want a quarterly inventory on all product in the store; they want a floor plan of the store showing every rack in the store, everything as it is, and we shouldn't be able to move any of that around without giving them a new detailed diagram."

Sakas said he'd be willing to discuss that - if only the city would pony up a decent offer for the business he's lost due to the two raids conducted by New Bern's chief of police last year.

"Realistically, I've lost over $300,000 - that's without punitive damages or anything," Sakas said. "They offered not even a third of that. We figure, minimum, we're losing about 10 grand a month; at least that."

But the city so far is unwilling to settle the financial issues with Sakas.

"We worked out a detail that we can give them financial statements yearly; they did not have to be done by the CPA; and a year-end inventory," Sakas said. "We wanted to separate the two issues [damages and regulations] so we could go back in business. They were not willing to do that, so what they ended up saying was, we could go back in business by giving them a financial statement of a breakdown on sales once a year and an inventory once a year, and if there's any complaints - which we brought out the fact that you've got the Christian Coalition, and you've got the assistant chief that is a member, which to me is a conflict of interest. So we basically agreed on all terms. The stumbling block was, they would not come off of the money, and I said no. I walked out of there."

Pure Bliss has remained open throughout the legal proceedings, but Sakas lives in constant fear of another police raid, since he doesn't trust the local district attorney's office's assurances that the police won't raid him without the DA's knowledge - as happened last September, following a raid that took place earlier in the year. After that first raid, Sakas was assured that the cops wouldn't raid him again until after the first raid had gone to court - but they did anyway.

But fear of police action isn't Sakas' only worry. There's still the question of whether the police have returned all of the merchandise they seized in the second raid.

"Whatever they've got down on their inventory for the second raid is what we'll have to go with because the computer that they seized crashed," Sakas lamented. "We don't know why, but they're saying they never touched it. The only way we'd know what they took is the inventory on our computer, and now that's gone."

Meanwhile, he also has to deal with being followed by undercover cops, and the fact that it seems that whenever he gets ready to go to court, the Christian Coalition holds a demonstration outside his store.

"I don't see anybody helping us," he said. "We're going to have to fight this alone - and it gets pretty damned depressing sometimes."

Sakas is being represented in his lawsuit by Paul Cambria's associate Barry Covert, as well as local attorneys Mark Chesnutt and Glen Barfield.