Spokane County officials moved Tuesday to shut down a Valley sex arcade that they say opened illegally in a residential neighborhood under the guise of being a retail clothing store.
The World Wide Video Super Store, 9411 E. First Ave., was cited for two zoning violations by planner Allan deLaubenfels and code compliance officer William Benish.
They revoked World Wide’s certificate of occupancy Tuesday afternoon and threatened to prosecute building owner Marco Barbanti if adult entertainment continued there.
Barbanti, however, said he has nothing to do with the arcade and simply owns the building.
“If the tenants have done something inappropriate, that’s between them and the county,” Barbanti said. “It doesn’t pertain to me. It’s academic.”
World Wide Video is part of a California-based chain. A clerk at the Valley store said she didn’t know where the company headquarters were, and would not say whether the store will close.
“I’m not allowed to give out that information,” she said.
A recent inspection by deLaubenfels found 13 token-operated booths where customers view X-rated movies.
The L-shaped booths were constructed to ensure privacy - a violation of the county adult entertainment establishment ordinance.
In addition, the sex shop is located within 400 feet of homes - another violation. The minimum for adult-entertainment businesses is 1,000 feet.
“We’re going to close them down,” said County Commissioner Steve Hasson.
On applications for permits, the business’s purpose was listed as general mercantile, Hasson said.
Planner deLaubenfels said in a letter to Jim Manson, director of building and planning, that Barbanti is not only the property owner but is listed as the store owner on the building permits.
Barbanti denied the claim.
Valley anti-pornography activist and schoolteacher Penny Lancaster said neighbors were suspicious when construction started on the store last winter.
Construction workers, she said, refused to say what type of business was going into the building with the stone facade and no windows.
World Wide Video opened there earlier this year.
Lancaster, who has laryngitis, responded to the county’s action Tuesday with a written statement: “In the interest of public health and safety, I hope the county can prevail in closing this business down.
“It was a devious attempt by Marco Barbanti to get a business license four to five months ago to sell clothing, but in fact open a sexually oriented business which purveys pornographic material within 500 feet of a residential area,” Lancaster wrote.
The county building permit and certificate of occupancy were not available Tuesday.
Lancaster is working with county officials to craft new regulations that would prohibit doors on sex shop booths. The proposed ordinance will be finished next month, Lancaster said.