Laws lenient on adult entertainment stores

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 21, 2004

BOLIGEE — Apparently, this isn’t the first community to question gaudy pink buildings with tawdry shelves of inventory.

The Pink Palace, which sits off Interstate 59/20 in Greene County, was not open Tuesday, according to District Attorney Greg Griggers. Whether or not the warehouse-style building, which sells adult entertainment books and novelty items, was closed due to law enforcement pressure could not be confirmed.

“All I know, from what I’ve heard, is that the store was not open today,” Griggers said Tuesday afternoon.

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Greene County Sheriff Johnny Isaac could not be reached for comment.

As Boligee residents have begun a wave of complaints about the store, Griggers and members of local law enforcement have begun an investigation into the legality of the business. And as it relates to establish law, the only pertinent claim Griggers can find against the store is a proper business license.

“From what we can tell, they just failed to obtain a specialty license,” Griggers said. “That’s something they have to get from [Greene] County.”

While the specifics of the Pink Palace’s closure Tuesday are still uncertain, the closure of another pink building — which catered to the same sort of patrons and had the same ownership in another city — is abundantly certain.

According to Griggers, the Pink Palace property is owned by a man named Jesse C. Pendergrass of Tennessee. It is believed Guy Birman owns the actual adult book store.

Calls placed to BellSouth information indicated there were no listings for anyone with the last name of Birman in Greene County.

In December 2003, a similar adult store in Ruston, La., was closed after local residents became disgruntled with the obtrusive pink building and X-rated material leaving a store called Fantasy Video. Not coincidentally, Pendergrass also owned the Fantasy Video property and another Birman — this time, Dan S. Birman — actually owned the store and its contents.

On Dec. 4, Dan Birman was convicted in Ruston of one count of obscenity. He was charged with four counts in a November 2003 indictment, but worked out a plea agreement that kept him out of jail.

Griggers said he is unsure whether or not Dan Birman is associated with the Pink Palace in Boligee. His brother, Guy Birman, apparently is.

When Dan Birman was found guilty in Ruston, a district judge ordered Birman to abide by certain conditions. He was told to: close his building and end operations at the store; refrain from getting involved with any other adult entertainment business partner in the area; not sell or deliver adult material in the area; remove advertisements for his business; remove an apparent internet site about the store; commit no other obscenity violations; and give up his right to appeal.

Because it can not be confirmed whether or not Dan Birman is associated with the Pink Palace in Boligee, it is premature to determine whether or not Birman is breaking any violations of his court agreement. Griggers could not comment on whether Dan Birman is involved.

Pendergrass, on the other hand, is involved — at a distance — with the Boligee adult bookstore. And Pendergrass is no novice to X-rated business deals.

How big is this business?

In 1997, residents, business owners and city officials in Nashville took aim at Pendergrass for the expanding adult entertainment industry in Music City, according to the Nashville Banner.

One business owner in Nashville said his property value had declined since the opening of a business that dubbed itself “the World’s Largest Adult Bookstore.”

Janice Johnson, who led a group called Citizens Against Sexual Exploitation in Nashville, told city officials she was concerned with the expanding adult industry.

“My concern is that we’ll soon be wall-to-wall with SOB’s [sexually oriented businesses],” Johnson said. “Nashville has four times as many SOB’s per capita as New York City.”

During the time of those public hearings, Pendergrass told the Nashville Banner that he was well within his legal rights to open the adult entertainment stores.

“We’re in the proper zone and all; we’re a legal business,” said Pendergrass, who owned at least 10 properties that included massage parlors, adult bookstores and other adult businesses, the Nashville Banner reported.

High priced fight

Though the relation between the Boligee adult bookstore and Dan Birman in unclear, if history is any indication, Greene County could be in for a tough — and expensive — fight if officials try to close the store.

When Dan Birman was taken to court and told to close Fantasy Video in Ruston, he found a busload of attorneys who lined up in his corner.

According to published reports in the Sierra Times, Birman’s defense team consisted of A.M. Stroud III of Tutt, Stroud&Bordelon LLC, of Shreveport, La.; H. Louis Sirkin and Jennifer M. Kinsley of Sirkin, Pinales, Mezibov&Schwartz LLC of Cincinnati, and John E. Herbison of Nashville.

For the sake of reference, the firm of Sirkin, Pinales, Mezibov&Schwartz LLC were the attorneys who successfully represented porn king Larry Flynt.

Because neither Guy nor Dan Birman could be reached, it is unclear how far they are willing to go in their fight to keep the Boligee entertainment store open. And as for now, the only obstacle keeping the doors closed at the Pink Palace is a simple county license.