Springfield Republican: “Springfield to continue fight against adult viewing booths”

We applaud Springfield officials for not giving up on Apremont Triangle. The Republican reports today that the city is still interested in closing the viewing booths at the Amazing.net porn shop there. The booths are associated with health risks, economic blight, harassment of residents, and prostitution around the store.

Springfield to continue fight against adult viewing booths despite 2 recent court losses

The business Amazing.net, at 486 Bridge St., had its entertainment license revoked last November, needed for the booths, but won a preliminary injunction in Superior Court in August, allowing the booths to reopen at least temporarily…

City Solicitor Edward M. Pikula was undeterred Friday, saying he will file a motion in Superior Court this week, asking the court “to render a final judgment,” rather than keep the preliminary injunction in place.

“I think the neighborhood is rightly concerned that the location is a source of nuisance activities and potentially a threat to public health and safety,” Pikula said.

Thomas Lesser of Northampton, attorney for Capital Video, claims that the city could save on legal fees if it stopped opposing Capital Video in court. He neglects to mention the years-long economic harm Capital Video has visited on the Apremont Triangle neighborhood, nor the fact that Capital Video could minimize many of the harms attending its viewing booth stores if it didn’t locate them near residences. Furthermore, we recall claims made by another Capital Video attorney, Michael Pill, that Northampton would expose itself to expensive legal action if it passed certain adult-use zoning ordinances in 2006. The ordinances were passed anyway, and the threatened legal action never came.

Lesser claims, “The business has always been agreeable to placing conditions on the license.” However, considering Capital Video’s attitude and national track record, it is unreasonable to trust them to adhere to these conditions for any length of time. As its own patrons say, “theres more money going in the machines with lights off and holes in the walls.”

See also:

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

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.

Full Text of Springfield’s Decision to Deny Capital Video’s 2008 Viewing Booth Entertainment License
[Mayor Charles Ryan:] …I found that issuance of the 2006 and 2007 licenses lead to the
creation of a nuisance and endangered the public health, safety or
order by increasing the incidence of disruptive conduct in the area in
which the Capital Video premises (hereinafter “Premises”) are located…

evidenced by the testimony and exhibits presented at the revocation
hearing, (copies of which were introduced in the January 3, 2008
hearing as Exhibits 15 and 16) the increase in the incidence of
disruptive conduct in the area in which the premises are located, based
on the testimony and reports of the police officers as well as the
testimony and reports of a neighborhood resident, indicated that the
sale of drugs, prostitution in the area around the store, together with
offensive, lewd activities occurring in the various “viewing booths”,
as well as patrons being assaulted while using the booths, created a
nuisance and has caused a hindrance or obstruction in the exercise of
the rights which are common to every person in the community, for
example to safely walk the sidewalks of their own neighborhood, or to
patronize the store selling adult oriented material without being

In the “Findings and Decision” concerning the revocation hearing for
the 2007 licenses, facts were introduced, without dispute, that showed
the video booths on the Capital Video premises have been used for
prostitution, assignation or lewdness, sexual assaults and are
connected to drug activity and therefore, the video booths were deemed
a nuisance and substantial grounds for denial or revocation of the 2007
licenses was found.

Despite the revocation, the evidence at the
hearing on January 3, 2008 indicated that the booths remained in use by
patrons at all times after notice on November 16, 2007 of revocation of
the 2007 entertainment license and remain in use by patrons to this

The applicant has flagrantly and outrageously violated the laws of this
Commonwealth which prohibit unlicensed entertainment by continuing to
operate the unlicensed booths despite the revocation on November 16,
2007 of the 2007 licenses.

Moreover, the applicant has also
failed to adhere to at least three of the conditions of the 2007
license. (See list in Ex. 13 at Tab 6) The conditions as agreed to as a
prerequisite for issuance of the 2007 license also required permanent
closure of three of the 16 booths; the presence of “at least two
employees” working at any given time; and metal sheets attached to
common walls. The [missing text] and the testimony of Code Enforcement
Inspector LaRose as well as Sgt. Charest indicated that these
conditions were not satisfied as indicated by the operation of 16
booths, only one employee at most times, and the presence of opaque
windows which clear to allow viewing between booths upon the consent of
users in adjoining booths…

The evidence before me amply
warrants the conclusion that management of Capital Video authorized,
encouraged and was engaged in operating the video booths without any
license fiom November 16, 2007 through December 31, 2007 as well as the
first three days of calendar year 2008, and, in addition, as stated
above, failed to comply with conditions agreed to before issuance of
the 2007 license.

The applicant has shown egregious contempt for
the Findings and Decision of November 16, 2007 through continued
unlicensed activity and the clear and undoubted disobedience of the
laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The application for 2008 entertainment licenses is denied.

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.

Full Text of Springfield’s Decision to Revoke Capital Video’s [2007] Viewing Booth Entertainment License
[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?’

Lesser Newman: Capital Video Has Seen the Light and Will Make its Springfield Viewing Booths Safe
We are not surprised that recent comments on the Internet say that
Capital Video is presently “serious” about monitoring customer
activities in Springfield. It is not uncommon for Capital Video stores
to go through cycles of strictness and laxity, depending on the level
of scrutiny local officials are giving it at any one time. Glory holes
routinely open, close, then open again. We are not reassured by
promises of stepped-up monitoring. The inclination of Capital Video
clerks to ‘look the other way’ is legendary. See, for example, these comments from Squirt.org members about Capital Video stores:

Troy, NY
8/4/06: They have had troubles
keeping clerks, there always advertising for help. If you go when the
young chick is on with the stud in her lip she doesnt give a shit of
who’s in what booth or how many just drop money and be cool…

North Kingstown, RI
Stopped by NK..of course Bandana Johnny was there, truly with a stink
on…its disgusting. I wonder if its a heath issue with him being
there. Would Amazing be liable? Afterall, they do let him loiter all
day knowing his dirtiness…

Meriden, CT
Went there today for the first time. There was at least 10 guys there
and i was suck in a matter of minutes. Definately a good place to go
for fun. the two young guys working didnt pay any attention and it is
very easy to find someone…

Dallas, TX
I haven’t been here durning lunch in awhile, but in the mornings could
be fun. No staff bothering you knocking on the door. anyone ever
interested in meeting let me know?

The reality of the
situation is clear. The current improvements at the Apremont Triangle
store are likely to be transient. In particular, we doubt the
sought-after grocery stores will move into the neighborhood until they
perceive a more lasting solution is in effect.

Viewing Booths and HIV: An Open Letter to Thomas Lesser of Northampton, Attorney for Capital Video

Gazette: “Porn store’s viewing booths raise stink in Springfield”

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.

What Kittery, Maine Found at the Porn Shop
Chief Strong came forward and said everyone was aware that this
establishment had been a bone of contention for a long time. Although
they had other regulations toward that establishment, it had come to
his attention that there were either illegal activities going on or
activities that were detrimental to the health and welfare of patrons
and the general public…