Choke the Chicken

Adult businesses fear the "Smut Shop" bill will tax them into oblivion

Sherman is also troubled by a passage in Bartle's bill that defines "sexually oriented materials" as "patently offensive to the average person applying contemporary adult standards with respect to what is suitable for minors."

The "with respect to what is suitable for minors" clause strikes Sherman as overreaching. "It's basically the Miller Test with a very dangerous twist," he says, referring to Supreme Court-established guidelines for determining obscenity. "You're not just talking about Penthouse and Hustler now, you're talking about Maxim, FHM, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue or R-rated movies."

Sherman also argues that this provision means places like 7-Eleven, Blockbuster, shopping-mall multiplexes and mildly risqué boutiques like Cheap TRX on South Grand Boulevard could conceivably be deemed sexually oriented businesses under Bartle's bill -- and therefore be subjected to its tariffs.

Bartle dismisses this claim as paranoia. "The Blockbusters have looked at the definition and they're comfortable with it," he maintains.

Cheap TRX co-owner Fred Neal is far from reassured. His store trades heavily in leather, costumes, T-shirts and greeting cards for mature audiences, in addition to various and sundry dildos, vibrators and cock rings on the basement sales floor.

"It would end up raising our prices," says Neal. "It depends on what you classify as 'adult merchandise.' If it's just toys and videos, that's way smaller than 10 percent of our business. Either way, it's a stupid thing. And I don't have too much tolerance for stupidity."

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