St. Paul smut shop, liquor store get temporary reprieve

Categories: St. Paul
The City of St. Paul's plans to raze and redevelop a liquor store and adult video arcade on University Avenue have been temporarily put on hold.

In September, Jill Rasmuson, owner of R & R Books, a porn shop that has been in business since 1976, filed suit in U.S. District Court claiming that the city's actions violated her constitutional rights. The suit sought a temporary restraining order barring the city from moving forward with plans to condemn the property. (For a full rundown on the dispute, see my previous news story.)

Last week, in response to the lawsuit, the city agreed not to pursue a "quick take" eminent domain procedure, whereby it could seize the property almost immediately. This means that the adult video store, along with the adjoining liquor store, should be able to avoid the wrecking ball for at least six months.

"That would've put the bookstore out on the street within 90 days with no place to relocate," says Randall Tigue, the attorney representing R & R Books. "As long as they're not going to do the quick take we have some time. We can litigate the constitutional issues at our leisure."

The lawsuit claims that St. Paul's actions constitute an illegal prior restraint on the owner's free speech rights. Currently, under the city's adult entertainment ordinance, R & R Books is classified as both an adult video store and an "adult mini-motion picture theater." In other words you can either purchase porn movies from the business or watch them on the premises for a fee. Such dual-purpose adult businesses have been prohibited in St. Paul since the mid-80s. The only reason that R & R Books has been able to continue operating is that it was grandfathered in as a pre-existing business.

If St. Paul follows through on plans to seize the property through eminent domain, the lawsuit claims, R & R Books would be left with no feasible place to relocate. Tigue notes that when the city seizes a piece of property it provides a staff person to help the impacted business find another suitable St. Paul locale. "I'd be willing to bet that the city's relocation specialist is going to be our star witness," he says.

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