Retailer John Cornetta has survived yet another ordeal in the ongoing legal fight over his 10,000 square-foot Love Shack store in Fulton County.
On Wednesday, Federal District Court judge Thomas Thrash granted a county injunction to shut down the store for operating without a license and selling a “significant amount [of adult material]” in violation of local laws regulating adult-oriented businesses.
However, Thrash also granted Cornetta a 24-hour period in which to appeal the ruling, amending the City Attorney’s typed order to shut down the Love Shack with a handwritten statement that allows the store to remain open if it sells less than a significant amount of adult merchandise.
In a 24-hour period, Cornetta added 30,000 additional, non-adult items to the store’s inventory, bringing his adult stock down from to 5 percent of the store’s volume. While Love Shack employees filled the store with items ranging from jewelry to hats to 5,000 comic books, Cornetta and his attorneys filed their required notice with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We had federal marshals here today, along with Fulton County marshals and Fulton County inspectors,” Cornetta said. “They cited me for a banner and for being in the wrong zoning, which are really minor magistrate charges. The judge didn’t order me to close the store; he granted the defendant’s motion, and then he narrowly tailored it. As long as I am not displaying a significant amount of my stock in trade as adult material, I am operating within the law. [Attorneys] Cary Wiggins and H. Louis Sirkin both asked the judge, ‘Can you please define significant?’ The judge said no – the order is what it is. In May 2005, the state Supreme Court decided that the term significant, as applied to adult media in the state of Georgia is 25 percent. This store was already operating with an abundance of caution at only 17.8 percent.”
“We’ve appealed the judge’s ruling, even though it kept us open,” Cornetta said. “The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lot of decisions he ruled on. [Attorneys] Cary Wiggins and H. Louis Sirkin believe that we are now grandfathered at this location permanently."
According to Cornetta, a handful of anti-porn protesters who showed up to picket the Love Shack this afternoon were met by an estimated 100 people supporting the store. “They were protesting the protesters,” he laughed. “We had one guy in a Santa suit carrying a sign that said ‘Mrs. Claus Needs Some Dildos – Don’t Close the Love Shack’. Live TV crews showed up, and the store is just jamming. Out of our 12 stores, this one is the second busiest in our entire chain. We’re doing $3,000 in business every day, and we’ve only been open for two weeks. The store doesn’t even have a sign outside, just a banner – and when we break down the sales, 80 percent of all sales are non-adult items. I actually feel that’s the direction our industry is taking; people that are buying DVDS and vibrators also want to buy lingerie, hats, water pipes, bikinis. Instead of them going somewhere else, we put that all under one roof and we turn a very substantial profit doing that. We brought in 5,000 regular comic books to dilute our adult media – and as it turns out, they’re selling well. There are guys picking up a comic book along with their Jenna Jameson movies. Hustler’s stores are tooled the same way as ours. It’s like an adult version of a Wal-Mart or Target type of store with jewelry, T-shirts and other brand-name products. Love Shack has become a brand, certainly in this state.”
Asked whether local opponents to the Love Shack might yet prevail in their mission to close the store, Cornetta said: “I have a 20-year lease, and I believe my grandchildren will be selling adult DVDs to their grandchildren.”
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