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Placement of items in store skirts law Although Exclusive Video sells some racy materials, it does not meet the definition of an adult business.

January 17, 2000 

Exclusive Video is packed with sexually explicit videotapes, magazines and toys, but as far as Sarasota County laws are concerned, the South Venice store is not an adult business.
The owner of Exclusive Video, you see, keeps his wares on wall-mounted shelves and on other shelves close to the walls. In the center he has lined up rows of plain, white videotape cases. And Marty Duran, the county's chief code enforcement officer, says that arrangement means Exclusive Video falls outside the county's definition of an adult business.
County law defines an adult business as a place where adult materials occupy at least 15 percent of the floor area used for displays or represent more than 20 percent of the store's displayed inventory.
"Can you believe it?," County Commissioner Shannon Staub asked. "That is so sneaky."
Exclusive Video, in the same building on U.S. 41 Bypass where the Venice Ice Pavilion used to be, opened about 2 1/2 years ago as a licensed adult business.
Owner Kipp Whaley couldn't renew his license last year because the property's new manager refused to sign it. So, to comply with county requirements, he rearranged his racy merchandise.
Whaley said he always has carried the white plastic boxes because discreet customers prefer them. But he bought about 16,000 more late last year just to ensure that 80 percent of his merchandise was not sexually oriented.
"I'm trying to be polite," Whaley said. "I'm trying to do everything within the law."
Though Whaley has satisfied the county, he's run into problems with his landlords.
George Huhn, a Realtor with Re/Max Properties, the property manager, said Whaley has been breaking his lease by selling anything other than videos. The two owners, who live in Canada, could try to evict him over that, Huhn said.
Huhn said he can't believe the county doesn't see Whaley's business as an adult store.
"Anybody who owns commercial real estate ought to be extremely wary of anybody opening a video store until this matter is resolved," Huhn said.
Whaley said that because he had to take 3,500 videos off his shelves and store them elsewhere, his monthly sales have dropped by about 50 percent. He plans to sue to recover that plus his costs for rearranging his store.
County staffers hope to suggest changes in the adult-entertainment law by this summer.
Duran wants to require businesses that aren't classified as adult stores to partition their adult materials behind walls or screens.
Tampa attorney Luke Lirot, who has represented many sexually oriented businesses, said Sarasota County's current law is one of the strictest in the state.
Lirot, who is Whaley's attorney, said it's almost impossible for people who want to start an adult business to find land that meets zoning requirements and is accessible to roads and electricity.
The county law, which does not apply in Venice, Sarasota, Longboat Key or North Port, requires sexually oriented businesses to locate in only three types of commercial zones.
They also must be at least 400 feet from residential zones and 800 feet from churches, schools, child-care centers, recreation areas and orphanages.
Owners of adult businesses must obtain annual licenses that cost $750.

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