The Rapid City Police Department seized all of the sex toys and related merchandise from the Spencer’s store at Rushmore Mall late Monday night as possible evidence of the national retailer's failure to register as an adult-oriented business.

Officers waited until the mall closed for the day before executing a search warrant issued by a judge for evidence of non-compliance with the city’s regulations for adult businesses. Under city ordinance, operating an unlicensed adult-oriented business is punishable by a $200 fine and 30 days in jail for every day a business fails to register.

Mayor Alan Hanks said the city received complaints from residents about the novelty gift store's merchandise more than a year ago. City voters overwhelmingly approved the restrictions on adult-oriented businesses in 2003.

“We were unable to get compliance with Spencer's after repeated contacts and conversations,” Hanks said. “To date, we're still not getting compliance.

“Our goal is compliance.”

Under the city's regulations, adult book, novelty and video stores must be licensed by the city and cannot allow anyone under the age of 18 to enter. Businesses can also comply by displaying all adult merchandise in a separate room or behind a partition and posting a sign banning minors from that area.

Earlier this year, Spencer's back corner featured floor-to-ceiling displays of sex toys, games, dolls and other adult merchandise. Spencer’s has been at Rushmore Mall since 1979, and corporate officials were clear in January that they do not believe they should have to register as an adult-oriented business.

According to city ordinance, stores can sell adult merchandise without being licensed as long as it is not a “substantial or significant portion of its stock” and there is no “emphasis on matter depicting, describing or relating to specified sexual activities or specified anatomical areas.”

But the city attorney’s office has argued for months that Spencer’s exceeds that threshold and should have to register as an adult-oriented business or remove the regulated merchandise from its shelves.

On Monday night, police officers boxed up all of the affected merchandise before carrying it out one of the mall's back entrances near the old Target.

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As of 10:45 p.m., officers were still inside the store and police Lt. Tom Vlieger said it would probably be another hour before they had gathered up the “hundreds of items” considered to be adult-oriented.

Kevin Mahoney, general counsel for the New Jersey-based Spencer Gifts LLC, could not be reached for comment late Monday.

Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or emilie.rusch@rapidcityjournal.com.

 

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