BY LISA DONOVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
As the legal question looms over whether Hustler Publisher Larry Flynt should be able to operate his shop downtown, Cincinnati officials may help him relocate the store after its building is bulldozed. The help could be as much as $20,000 in relocation assistance, for anything from moving expenses to new stationery.
The Hustler store is one of at least five businesses that will have to move from their Sixth and Walnut locations to make way for the new Contemporary Arts Center. Construction could begin in late 1999.
The city is required to pay relocation fees when it purchases property for public improvement projects, said Scott Stiles, relocation manager for the city.
Batsakes Hat Shop, Hustler and other businesses have received relocation notices.
"The law is the law; we have to treat everybody equally, and that's what we'll do," said City Manager John Shirey.
The city has filed charges claiming that the business is in violation of local sexually oriented business laws. That case is pending. "We're proceeding as if they're eligible for the benefits," said Mike Miller, a legal administrator with the city solicitor's office.
"If it was found to be an illegal operation, it would not be entitled to benefits," he said.
It was unclear whether the city would be able recover the costs, should the city move ahead and then win its case.
The city law department is reviewing whether the store is eligible to receive relocation assistance under federal regulations that the city follows. Such regulations require the business to be a "lawful activity" for assistance.
That administrative inquiry is in addition to the criminal case.
Jimmy Flynt, Larry Flynt's brother and store manager, has been charged with one count of operating a sexually oriented business without a license. Larry Flynt, who is not involved in day-to-day operations of the store he owns, was not charged.
City law requires licenses for any business that stocks, sells or displays a significant amount of adult material. The Hustler store does not have a license and likely could not get one because it is not in an area zoned for industrial use, as the law requires. The licensing charges are first-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail. If Jimmy Flynt is convicted, the city could ask that the store be closed or forced to relocate.
In addition, the Flynts face 15 obscenity and corruption counts.