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Greensboro City Council Agrees: Walgreens Is Not A Sex Business

Greensboro City Council
City of Greensboro

In a unanimous vote, the Greensboro City Council agreed Tuesday that its definition of a sexually-oriented business was too broad.

The problem stems from some businesses not realizing they were sexually-oriented. Spencer's, (the black light infused, sort-of-ironic t-shirt and chain wallet store often found in malls) was cited by the city as violating it's definition of "sexually-oriented." Of course, Spencer's pushed back, arguing that the items in its store that are explicitly for adults can also be found in a drug store.

"We can't enforce sexually-oriented business code against just one industry," said Assistant City Attorney, Tom Carruthers. "We have to apply it equally. And so the argument was that our law was over-broad, and we were applying it unequally, which a government cannot do."

So, Tuesday night, after some remarkably adult discussion, the Greensboro City Council agreed that only stores that dedicate 10 percent or more of their floor space to adult items will be considered "sexually-oriented." There are a couple of exceptions:

  1. No sex businesses downtown
  2. A business can dedicate 25 percent of its floor space to such items, so long as that area is marked "adults-only."

Of course, many communities would like to outlaw such businesses entirely. But that's illegal. Carruthers warned against the possibility of essentially zoning these businesses out of the city.
"If that was to occur, than our regulations would be a prohibition of this undesirable but legal business, which would endanger our ability to regulate the entire industry," he said. "And we would have to go back to the drawing board and redo our entire restriction."

Once city council member, Mike Barber, went so far as to stand up for the businesses that do operate within legal limits.

"They are easy targets," said Barber. "And I only bring this up to say that most of our locations in Greensboro are aware of the laws and operate within the laws and they operate appropriately."

A spokesperson for the city said there aren't any businesses that will be directly affected by the change, so much as businesses that will no-longer be affected. Rest easy, Walgreens.

Eric Mennel prepares the afternoon/evening "drive time" newscast on WUNC. Previously, he was a producer for The Story with Dick Gordon. Eric has reported for All Things Considered, This American Life, 99% Invisible and other radio programs. He covered protests and security measures at the 2012 Republican National Convention for WUSF Tampa and NPR News. One day, he hopes to own a home with a wrap-around porch.
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