Courts thwart Gwinnett County’s effort to close adult store

Gwinnett County wants to shutter Tokyo Valentino, which sells sex toys at a store on Pleasant Hill Road near Duluth. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Gwinnett County wants to shutter Tokyo Valentino, which sells sex toys at a store on Pleasant Hill Road near Duluth. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Tokyo Valentino, the Gwinnett County novelty and adult entertainment shop, continues its fight to stay open, recently notching a pair of court victories that the store’s attorney says protect freedom of speech.

At issue is Gwinnett’s adult entertainment ordinance, which restricts such businesses to specific zoning. County officials approved the ordinance after Tokyo Valentino opened and began selling sex paraphernalia.

In a federal lawsuit, Tokyo Valentino, located on Pleasant Hill Road near the Gwinnett Place Mall, said the ordinance violates its constitutional rights to free speech and due process. It also said Gwinnett’s adult licensing and zoning codes were vague.

A U.S. District Court judge in Atlanta dismissed the lawsuit earlier this year. But in September, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals revived the lawsuit.

Then in September, a Gwinnett County Superior Court judge rejected the county's request to shut down Tokyo Valentino because it operates in a zoning district that doesn't permit adult stores. The judge said forcing the store's closure could disrupt the ongoing federal litigation.

Tokyo Valentino’s attorney characterized both court decisions as a victory for freedom of speech.

“The business has rights,” said attorney Cary Wiggins. “We are relying on the courts to protect those rights. So far, so good.”

Gwinnett County did not respond to a request for comment. In court briefs, the county argued its ordinance is legal.

Tokyo Valentino opened in July 2015 as a tobacco, apparel and novelty store. Later, it began selling sexually explicit media and paraphernalia.

Gwinnett officials said the store needs an adult entertainment license. But they imposed a moratorium on such licenses while they reviewed the county's ordinance. They later approved an ordinance that limits stores that sell sexual devices to properties zoned for manufacturing. Tokyo Valentino operates in an area zoned commercial.

The store filed the federal lawsuit last year, saying Gwinnett had deprived it of its rights to due process.

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