Sakas in Talks to Settle Zoning Issues with City of Wilmington

WILMINGTON, N.C. - Video boutique owner Greg Sakas is feeling the pressure. While he was acquitted last August of the criminal charges filed against his Pure Bliss store in New Bern, N.C., negotiations regarding his federal lawsuit against New Bern officials, including Bew Bern police chief Frank Palombo, have come to a virtual standstill.

Sakas has been plagued with zoning problems over his Wilmington store, Intimate Bliss, ever since his court victory in New Bern. The adult store owner suspects these hassles were instigated by Palombo in retaliation for the lawsuit - and he's about ready to throw in the towel.

"Here's the situation," Sakas told AVN. "Wilmington, we're basically going to cut a deal with them to stay open till March 31, then we're going to close down."

There are at least five other video stores in the city with roughly the same percentage of adult merchandise as Intimate Bliss. But only Sakas' store has been threatened with closure.

"It's strange that all this started the following week after we won in New Bern," Sakas said. "You tell me: Isn't that kind of strange that all of a sudden it happened? There's no doubt in my mind that this all plays together."

Sakas has placed conditions on his deal with Wilmington so that if he goes down, he'll have company.

"That's part of the deal I'm cutting with them," Sakas explained. "We're the first one, but they [the city] said they are going to look into the rest of them, too. If they don't do anything to the rest of them, guess who's going to sue the city of Wilmington?

"Basically, we're trying to cut an agreement now that says they realize there's other stores, that we were the first one that's going to close, and after that, they're supposed to go after the rest of them. If they do not go after them, my attorney's basically telling them that we'll proceed with a lawsuit against them because what it amounts to is, they are singling us out, which is a discriminatory situation."

"I can't fight two battles at one time," Sakas said. "It's tough, financially more than mentally. With the economy and all, our stores are down 38%, and so I've got a choice here. We're losing money in Wilmington anyway, so we're looking to make this deal. If they don't honor it, I've got a good leg to stand on, where I can actually go in there and sue them."

Sadly, Sakas can't seem to rally support from either his suppliers or the other video stores.

"I can't even get them [suppliers] to even cut their prices on movies or something to help out," he lamented. "I talked to [one of the other stores] and guess what I was told? More or less, it's my problem. They don't want to stir anything up because they haven't been brought into it. Nobody's helping me. Screw it all. I mean,  how much fighting can I do? Every month, five, ten thousand dollars in legal fees? Come on; nobody can afford that, not with the economy and all."

Sakas' attorney, Glen Barfield, has begun taking depositions of city officials in New Bern, but so far, the city hasn't made a decent settlement offer.

"We're still not even up to six figures," Sakas said, "and so we're going to start moving forward with doing depositions and all, but I mean, I can't fight two battles at one time."

As for Wilmington: "They are pushing us out of that town. The other ones are not zoned properly either, so if they just leave it with us and no one else, then they've got a problem. I will not just sit still for that one; then I will have a lawsuit and I will do it."

In the meantime, Sakas is looking for an alternate location for Intimate Bliss outside the city limits, in New Hanover County, where a Priscilla's has recently opened, and where county officials seem to have a more relaxed attitude toward zoning.

"I'm not happy with this; not happy at all," he said. "But what am I going to do?"