Hampden Superior Court Lets Capital Video Reopen Viewing Booths in Springfield; A Proposed Solution

Bad news for Springfield’s Apremont Triangle last month. Hampden County Superior Court ruled that Capital Video’s Amazing.net porn shop there can reopen its viewing booths. One of Charlie Ryan’s last acts as the Mayor of Springfield was to deny Capital Video a 2008 entertainment license for these booths.

The Court wants to see more evidence that the booths are a health hazard, a nuisance and a blight to the neighborhood. We believe there is plenty such evidence. In particular, it’s absurd to believe that Capital Video patrons merely “observe” each other when visiting the viewing booths. As reported in the 6/19/08 Gazette:

At issue are the 16 enclosed viewing booths police and health officials inspected Oct. 19. Springfield health inspector Steve Stathis reported that all of the viewing booths were found ‘soiled’ at that time and
littered with paper towels, tissues, and other debris. The walls, floor and video monitors were stained with what appeared to be bodily fluids,
according to Stathis and police.

‘There were seven booths that contained holes in them that appeared to be 2 inches wide,’ Stathis said.

Springfield Detective Martin Germain inspected the store with Stathis and said it was his opinion that the holes were drilled to facilitate sexual acts among people in two separate booths…

It is equally absurd to believe that Capital Video will implement any permanent cure to the situation, short of legal compulsion. Their national track record is clear. This online dialogue between two Springfield patrons is revealing:

justme03, 11/30/06: was there wed day 1:30ish busy but holes are closed
and very bright now all the light in the hall or on. dont they know
theres more money going in the machines with lights off and holes in
the walls

a1buttmuncher, 12/5/06: They have been cited by the city and had to
close up the holes and they are keep a close eye on the back. The
lights are up and if they see you opening doors they will throw you
out. They are very serious I witnessed the manager throwing out a guy I
saw there all the time. Be careful and discreet or you will not place
to play during the cold winter months. I agree that it is not really
worth the time with the bright lights and no holes but they will be
back eventually. Be Patient!

Here is the court’s decision. You may also download it as a PDF (199KB).

How much does Capital Video care about the health of its customers? A search of the term barebacking on its Amazing.net/Goflix.com website today brings up the following and more:

Bisexual Barebacking #6
Barebacking Tag Team
Unsafe Sex with Transsexuals Barebacking #2
Raw Bois #3 – A Twink Barebacking Adventure
Adventures in Barebacking

The title below was prominently on display at an Amazing.net store in Massachusetts on September 28. The character at the bottom of the box cover says, “Go Forth And Be Unsafe My Son!”

A Proposed Solution: Amortization

Capital Video’s Springfield store is not actually in compliance with Springfield’s current zoning regarding adult entertainment. It’s too close to residences, as you can see by using Springfield’s Geographic Information System (Amazing.net is located at 486B Bridge Street). Current zoning specifies:

Section F-1403. Permitted Districts: Adult oriented uses are permitted with a special permit from the City Council in Business A,
Business B, and Business C and no other districts, subject to the
following regulations:

  1. No lot occupied, or to be occupied, by an adult
    oriented use shall be located within a seven hundred (700) foot radius
    from a residential zoning district or a building containing residences.
  2. No lot occupied, or to be occupied, by an adult
    oriented use shall be within a seven hundred (700) foot radius from the
    grounds of a school, place of worship, public library or public park.
  3. No lot occupied, or to be occupied, by an adult
    oriented use shall be located within a seven hundred (700) foot radius
    of any other adult oriented use as defined.

Capital Video is allowed to remain where it is because it’s “grandfathered”. The store preceded this ordinance. However, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Massachusetts municipalities can enact an “amortization clause”, meaning that all non-conforming adult uses have to come into compliance within a fixed period of time. The
town of North Reading, MA has one of these clauses (PDF):

E. Amortization.

(1) Any adult use which exists in North Reading at the time of the
adoption of this bylaw shall cease and desist all adult use activities
within five years (5) of the effective date of this bylaw.

(2) Adult uses which apply for and are granted a special permit under
the provisions of this bylaw shall be exempt from Subsection E(1)

Amortization is perhaps the best strategy we’re aware of for Springfield to improve the quality of life for downtown residents and revitalize the area. It would be clear, effective, lasting, and legal. Capital Video has proven that adult enterprises cannot be trusted on their own to do the right thing in Springfield.

See also:

Full Text of Springfield’s Decision to Revoke Capital Video’s [2007] Viewing Booth Entertainment License
and reports showed that the booths continued to be utilized for illegal
purposes, including sexual assaults on patrons despite the police
activity of a drug arrest in front of the premises on October 11, 2006,
and the actions of persons involved with the drug activity fleeing into
the store, (apparently to hide in the booths) and despite inspections
by the health authorities documenting the deplorable conditions,
despite a letter to the President of Capital Video, as well as a
re-inspection on December 6, 2006 where the holes were again apparently
covered up, and despite a letter from the licensee’s attorney assuring
the City that action was being taken…

[Testimony of Ms. Erica
Walch, immediate past president of the Armoury-Quadrangle Civic
Association:] “…our AQCA office is directly across the street from
the store, and I am able to watch the goings on when I am at the
office. Men and women who live in our neighborhood … are frequently
approached by men who slow down their cars and ask, ‘Are you working?'”

testimony shows repeated and persistent evidence of illegal activity
and complicity and reckless disregard of Capital Video’s management
over a long period of time which is sufficient to constitute a nuisance.

viewing the evidence as a whole, there is absolutely no basis to credit
any assertions or representations that Capital Video has, can or will
permanently improve the conditions of its viewing booths and the open,
repeated, pervasive and notoriously lewd and lascivious behavior
associated with the booths…

Springfield Republican: “Springfield mayor denies license for adult-themed store” (1/4/08)
Last June 19, the Gazette
reported how Capital Video attributed its Springfield store problems to
“employee breakdown”. Property manager Anthony E. Nota said that an
enhanced video surveillance system would monitor activity inside and
outside the store, and that this video could be viewed at any time via
remote laptop and from Capital Video’s security center in Rhode Island.
All this suggests to us that Capital Video as a whole is now implicated
in its current license violation. Its problems in Springfield can no
longer be blamed on one or a few local employees.

Springfield Republican Reports on Apremont Triangle Mailing about Amazing.net
The Republican that they believe the store draws prostitutes as well as
vagrants who publicly urinate on their properties….

“David B.
Panagore, chief development officer for the Springfield Finance Control
Board, agreed with an assertion by Tuckey [Michael M. Tuckey Sr.,
president of the Armoury-Quadrangle Civic Association] that a sex-oriented video and products store discourages companies that could revitalize the area from moving in.”

Police Commissioner: “…it is fair to say that ‘Amazing’ constitutes
an attractive nuisance that contributes to blighted conditions there”

“We have a great interest in the quality of life in the vicinity of the
triangle and have previously taken some steps to mitigate it. Much
remains to be done and it is fair to say that ‘Amazing’ constitutes an
attractive nuisance that contributes to blighted conditions there.

Capital Video Springfield: Secondary Effects Extend to Prostitution; Actions the City Can Take
[Fred Rowe:] Outside, we have both male and female prostitutes standing
across the street, by our building, and we have a vacant lot that we
use for parking. They stand there, and they wait for [customers] to
come out, and they solicit them, and they try to take them out behind
our building, and do their business. It’s unbelievable.

Capital Video’s Springfield Porn Shop Repels Sought-After Businesses
[potential grocery] market is really the key, we think, to the whole
building. The people that come, the market operator–their issue is
number one, the Video Expo [Amazing.net] across the street, and the
crowd that you see around it…”

Viewing Booths and HIV: An Open Letter to Thomas Lesser of Northampton, Attorney for Capital Video
As you may be aware, Capital Video’s stores in Springfield, Kittery and Meriden have featured prominently
on the ‘cruising’ website, Squirt.org. Comments on the Internet may be
hearsay in the eyes of the law. Nevertheless, they describe the reality
that these stores cater to a group of people who are cavalier in the
extreme about their personal health and the health of their sexual
partners. Capital Video sells media that encourages promiscuity and heedlessness,
and realizes increased profits when it turns a blind eye to patrons’
activity on its premises. Despite Capital Video’s protestations that it
discourages sexual activity in its stores, in an era when pornographic
content of all kinds can be accessed directly in the home, the unique
selling point of viewing booths is to facilitate physical sexual
contact between two or more people…

On Squirt.org, Capital Video’s Apremont Triangle store gets the most comments of any location in Springfield. It is plausible that it is one of the leading centers for HIV transmission in the region.

Providence Journal Archives: Kenneth Guarino’s Mob Ties, Criminal Past, Global Empire
October [2006], Capital Video’s local attorney Michael Pill claimed to
Northampton’s City Council that “The company will not tolerate any
illegal conduct in or around its place of business.” (PDF) Three months later, the Springfield police commissioner called for a License Commission hearing to consider counts of drug sales and lewd activity around the Capital Video shop there.

Carol Queen: Time for the Porn Film
Industry to Stop Being a Poster Child of Heterosexual HIV Transmission

Extremely risky acts are safer when condoms are correctly used. To porn
fans for whom the sight of a condom is pleasure-squelching, I say: Get
used to it. The (heterosexual) adult industry has for 20 years shirked
an opportunity to help normalize condom use. This doesn’t just put its
own talent at risk. It puts viewers and their partners at risk as well.