The city of Fresno may have jumped the gun in objecting to a planned Hustler Hollywood store on Shaw Avenue.
The Bee first reported Wednesday morning that Hustler planned to open a store in the former Silver Dollar Hofbrau that would be part lingerie, part sex toys and part Hustler-branded merchandise like T-shirts and hats.
Late Wednesday, the city of Fresno appeared to push back, issuing a statement saying that the “the new Development Code does not permit an Adult Oriented Business in this zone district.” It also said no plans had been submitted for work or zoning clearance and that it was sending a building inspector to the site to stop work.
But Thursday morning, the city said the work happening there did not need a permit. Chairs and tables had been pulled out into the parking lot last week and debris was piled into a large bin Wednesday. There was also asbestos removal happening, and the contractor has the appropriate permit from a different agency.
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“We will withhold further comment on whether the proposed use complies with the City’s new Development Code until an actual application is received,” the city said in a statement released Thursday morning.
Then Evan Roosevelt, senior director of marketing and public relations for Flynt Management Group that owns the Hustler stores, said the Fresno store would not be an adult business. That’s because it will have less than 25 percent of its display space devoted to adult product, which is the city’s standard, he said in a phone interview Thursday.
It’s not unusual for businesses like this to inspire some controversy, often fueled by residents who don’t like the idea of stores with an emphasis on sex in their city.
Hustler’s attorney reached out to the city in November seeking information about the city’s zoning rules for adult novelty stores. The city replied in a letter dated Dec. 2, 2015 that details the zoning for the property and defines adult novelty stores.
A Hustler spokesman says the company’s Fresno store will have less than 25 percent of its display space devoted to adult product, which is the city’s standard.
Adult stores are not allowed in the zone that the building is in, called commercial general. The city’s development code changed Jan. 3, but adult stores were not allowed in that zone before or after the changes.
Any plans by Hustler would be subject to the new development code, which was voted on by the city council Dec. 3, the day after the city mailed the letter to Hustler’s attorney.
The looming changes to the code weren’t mentioned in the city’s letter. Jennifer Clark, the city’s director of development and resource management said: “It would have been speculative at the time to assume that the city council would take any action and the request was, ‘What are your current rules regarding this use in the city?’ ”
What happens next is unclear because Hustler has not submitted any applications for the store, which would detail its plans.
Clark said she couldn’t comment on whether Hustler’s plans would be allowed under the development code because she hasn’t seen an application from them.
Until we have an application, we don’t know what they are going to do.
Jennifer Clark, city of Fresno’s director of development and resource management
Hustler has not applied for any permits yet because it’s still in the design stage with an architect, Roosevelt said. The actual remodeling has not started yet, he said.
Roosevelt said it’s normal for cities to change their regulations from time to time and that Hustler planned to reach out to the city for clarification regarding the new regulations.
“Before submitting any permits or plans, we want to get clarification,” Roosevelt said.
There are 18 Hustler Hollywood stores nationwide and another opening soon:
San Jose (coming soon)
San Antonio, Texas
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Cincinnati (Hollywood Hustler and a Larry Flynt’s Hustler Express)