NEWARK, N.J.—Anyone remember the big controversy about Victory Tradeshow Management's attempt to hold its first Exxxotica convention in the New York City area—only to run into a massive roadblock thanks to the provincial thinking of the mayor and town administrator of Secaucus, N.J., where the show was scheduled to be held? The city's opposition forced the convention to relocate at the last minute about 30 miles farther from Manhattan than its original location, the Meadowlands Expo Center, a move that surely impacted the show's attendance and created myriad other costs as well.
Well, Exxxotica New York LLC, the corporation formed to put on the show, has now filed suit in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, charging essentially a conspiracy among Secaucus, its officials and the Hartz Mountain Development Corporation, which owns the Meadowlands, to prevent Exxxotica NY (ENY) from the exercise of its legal and contractual rights.
The suit was filed by attorney John M. Donnelly of the Atlantic City law firm of Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan, Brown & Donnelly, and the complaint sets out a history of the contractual discussions between ENY and Hartz Mountain (Hartz MEC) stretching back to December 28, 2007, the date the two entities entered into a lease agreement for the Exxxotica 2008 Show which was to take place Sept. 12-14 of that year. Pursuant to the terms of the lease, ENY paid the Meadowlands security deposits totaling $32,500.
According to the complaint, ENY made it clear to the venue's management that its event "was to include the sale of adult materials (books, magazines, etc.) as well as exhibits and demonstrations for a mature audience" and "expressly advised" Hartz MEC's general manager and event coordinator Frank Dominici of "the nature of various products that would be sold and certain performances and demonstrations that ENY anticipated would take place during the Tradeshow," and "expressly sought defendants’ assurance that the anticipated conduct, sales and demonstrations were permitted at the Expo Center."
What followed were a series of discussions between ENY and Hartz MEC that included emails with the venue's representatives asking whether they were aware of any state and/or local laws that would impede the show from conducting its described business and/or serving alcohol to the show's attendees.
"During the course of such electronic communications and oral discussions, Hartz MEC General Manager Robin Cuneo responded that the Tradeshow was acceptable, appropriate and permitted at the venue," the complaint states, "and that SMG [an agent of Hartz MEC responsible for managing the Expo Center] could establish a special VIP area off of the main area of the Expo Center where it could sell alcoholic beverages and where customers who attend the Tradeshow could consume such alcoholic beverages."
However, during the discussions, SMG advised ENY that Hartz MEC would require a lease rider expressly restricting "certain acts and conduct" that might be permitted at the tradeshow, and agreeing that ENY would make sure that all participants in the tradeshow would abide by the restrictions set forth in the rider as well as all local or state laws that might apply—and that ENY would immediately eject violators from the convention. ENY even agreed that "in the event of such material breach of the Rider by the Plaintiff, it would not be entitled to a return of any pre-paid fees, and that in such limited circumstances, SMG and Hartz MEC would not be responsible for any damages arising from the cancellation of the Tradeshow and termination of the Lease pursuant to the Rider."
The complaint also notes that SMG was well familiar with these type of adult-themed events, since it had hosted the annual East Coast Video Shows that took place in Atlantic City for several years up to 1999.
But Exxxotica never even got a chance to violate the terms of the lease or its rider, because in early September, officials of Secaucus claimed to have first been informed by the local chief of police that the adult expo would be coming to the Meadowlands approximately 10 days later, and on Sept. 4 announced that they would be seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Exxxotica from taking place. The reason? Because "certain of the exhibitions and activities scheduled to take place at the Tradeshow (which were reviewed by Hartz MEC and SMG and deemed acceptable) would be 'obscene' and 'lewd.'" The city also claimed that serving alcohol at the show would violate New Jersey's Alcoholic Beverage Control regulations, and that some of the activities planned for the show would violate Secaucus Municipal Ordinances prohibiting "go-go dancing" in venues where alcohol was served.
But even though Exxxotica agreed to make sure that no "go-go dancing" (or "wet t-shirt contests") took place at the expo, and even agreed that no alcohol would be served, the city refused to withdraw its motion for a restraining order—and according to the complaint, neither Hartz MEC nor SMG supported ENY in its attempts to enforce its lease agreement, and told ENY that "they did not intend to allow the tradeshow to go forward and that Plaintiff would 'not be permitted in the doors' of the Expo Center."
This required ENY to quickly attempt to find a new venue for the show at the last minute. The organizers were able to enter into a lease agreement to use the Raritan Center in Edison, even though Edison's Mayor Jun Choi voiced objections—but there's no doubt that damage was done to Exxxotica New York.
And so Exxxotica New York sued.
Besides the expected "breach of contract" claims against the Expo Center and its management, the 16-count complaint charges "tortuous interference" by the city, its mayor and town administrator in the contractual process, and violations by all defendants of ENY's free speech rights under both the U.S. Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution.
According to New Jersey's Constitution, Article I §6, "Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right. No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press."
The suit also claims that Secaucus and its officials violated ENY's Fifth Amendment right against the unlawful taking of ENY's property; to wit, the city's refusal to allow the trade show to go forward at the contracted venue, for which ENY had already put down a security deposit—money which, the complaint also states, is still in Hartz MEC's possession. Moreover, the complaint contains an action under 42 U.S.C. §1983, charging that the defendants, "acting under the color of state law, have deprived Plaintiff of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States and New Jersey."
Also of interest is the 16th claim, "Malicious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage – Business Disparagement Against Defendants Town and [Mayor] Elwell."
"Defendant Town, by and through Defendant Elwell, stated in an article in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, regarding the Exxxotica Show taking place at the Expo Center in Secaucus, 'the town of Secaucus is a family community, and this is not the type of entertainment we should have'," the claim reads. "This statement by Defendant Elwell was knowingly false when made, as the Town of Secaucus permits other adult entertainment establishments in its boundaries."
The suit was filed on Sept. 3, and none of the defendants have yet given an official response to the suit.
Keep checking back with AVN.com to track the progress of this interesting litigation.