Sex shop plan draws hundreds to Manassas council meeting

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly said the clean, family-friendly atmosphere is why he brought his organization to Old Town Manassas.

But now, Reilly said, he questions staying because of a sex shop that is scheduled to open in the historic district next month.

"We can locate anywhere in the United States, but we chose to locate here because of the reputation of Manassas," he said about moving the organization, which promotes orthodoxy at Catholic colleges and universities, to Old Town two years ago. "It would be very difficult to move because Manassas is very special, but we are concerned how a single shop like this could hurt the image of Old Town. We have donors . . . and other visitors who come to our office and who would be very disturbed by a shop like this."

Reilly was one of about 200 people who attended a special City Council meeting Tuesday about the adult boutique KK's Temptations, which plans to open at 9411 Battle St. The council heard from more than 60 people, most against the store location, and from the city attorney on what could be done to address residents' concerns.

"They have the freedom to operate the business, but the issue here is location," Manassas resident Tom Mosimann said. "Many people have worked hard to rejuvenate Old Town, and this shop would take away that hard work."

Adult businesses that engage in sexually explicit but lawful activities cannot be banned, but they also don't have the right to sell obscene material, City Attorney Robert W. Bendall said. The city probably can't stop the store from opening, he said. However, if the city can prove KK's Temptations hurts the community once the store opens -- for example, if property values decline or crime increases -- city officials can adopt zoning ordinances to address the "negative secondary effects," Bendall said.

KK's Temptations owner Kim Skokan received her occupancy permit and business license from the city Aug. 13, Bendall said. City officials asked what kind of store it was and were told an "upscale negligee" shop, he said. Skokan is still waiting for her signs to be approved by the architectural review board.

Many residents who spoke Tuesday said they opposed the shop because Old Town is a family-friendly area, where children attend classes at the neighboring Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory and which students from nearby schools frequent.

Some said the store, which will sell adult DVDs, lotions, lingerie and sex toys, could draw crime, lead to sexual abuse and deter people from coming to Old Town.

"I don't want to patronize businesses around a business that sells such material because of the clientele that might be loitering in the area," Prince William resident Erin Fisher said. "It's not KK's I'm worried about but the people who will come and frequent the business."

A few residents spoke in favor of the store and the rights of the business owner. Manassas resident Kendall Alexander countered complaints about the type of clients the store will draw, saying she and her husband frequent a similar store in the area.

"I'm the face you are all so scared of," she said. "This is America, and we believe in free enterprise. . . . These people just want to open a business. I plan to go there, and I think it will be fun."

Manassas resident Mark Hempen said opponents of the shop who say they are concerned about image, safety and children haven't complained about a nearby gun shop or establishments that sell alcohol. It's an addition to Old Town, he said, and people shouldn't be ashamed of it.

"When you have a shop like this, it's a place you can be ashamed of or open up to," he said. "Just think, it's Valentine's Day and you want to get something really nice for your wife. Are you going to go to the gun shop?"

Store owner Skokan, 40, of Centreville, did not attend the meeting, but her attorney, Edward Gross, was present. Skokan has said she plans to run the shop with her 20-year-old daughter, Kristina, and has called it an upscale, classy business that she thinks will draw people to Old Town, not deter them.

After the almost four-hour hearing, City Council members directed the city's land use and development committee to evaluate studies from across the country regarding the negative secondary effects of adult businesses, determine what aspects of the businesses create negative effects and gather any evidence of such effects from existing adult businesses in Manassas and Prince William County. All findings by the committee will be presented to City Council.

"I think [KK's Temptations owner] is being judged before even opening" her business, Manassas resident Cindy Brookshire said. "There are adult activities going on in the city of Manassas already. There is nothing wrong with sex; it's not dirty. I think it's okay to have sex appeal in Old Town Manassas."

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