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Lux Bookstore takes doors back off its peep shows

But owner Rick Ford predicts only temporary slow-down

Rick Ford has seen the future of adult peepshows, and it's a box-office disaster. While Ford's competitors in the adult bookstore business were fighting a city ordinance that requires the removal of doors from peepshow booths. Ford complied last month by unhinging the doors from all 11 booths in his downtown Lux Bookstore. "Business is down drastically," he lamented last week. "Guys come in, get change for a dollar bill, see the doors are off, and tell my clerk, 'Give me my money back, I'm going next door.'" He won't say just how low his peepshow revenues tumbled, while industry and police sources say each booth can yield up to 50 dollars a day, Ford and his colleagues guard those figures zealously. But there's evidence that he isn't exaggerating: his clerks say hours passed without a single Lux patron viewing the movies.

Ford rehung the peepshow doors Tuesday afternoon, following a judge's ruling that police mus halt at least temporarily their arrests of store clerks. But Superior Court Judge Mack Pl. Lovett also ruled that the city's no-door ordinance is valid, and vice-squad officers can continue citing owners and employees who flout the three-year-old ordinance. the city attorney's office plans to prosecute these offenders as a step toward its eventual goal of revoking the business licenses of stores that don't comply.

By yanking the doors and compromising viewer privacy, city officials hope to stop the drug dealing, masturbation, and sexual encounters they claim take place in the closed booths. Owners say, however, that police and politicians grossly distort the activities that take place behind locked peepshow doors, and some owners pride themselves in policing their peeps to minimize illegal activities in the booths, which they stock with tissue paper and trash cans. (The attorney for Greg Vasic, owner of the F Street Bookstore chain, included in his court filings statements by a police vice expert that Employee was arrested.

"Other owners may pay their clerks bonuses (to reward them for risking arrest). But I have to sleep at night, I just can't watch them get arrested," said Ford, who has been in the adult bookstore and theater business on Fifth Avenue for nine years. Joe's Books on Fourth Avenue also removed the doors from its five booths after a clerk was cited by vice officers, but an employee says the peeps were never a major source of income for the store, which specializes in magazines and books.

Ford and other bookstore employees say that removing the peepshow doors will invite the sort of behavior the city claims it's trying to stop. Gay men cruising for a sexual encounter can now enter the occupied, doorless booths, "It will be a homosexual haven." Predicts a clerk at Candlelight Books on lower Fifth Avenue. "They won't have to worry about the doors, they'll just stick their heads in, "says this clerk, who claims that a similar door less policy instituted in Nashville "brought out the (homosexuals) by the droves," Ford says those predictions have already proven true at his store. " I had one guy walk out, telling me, "Your place is nice, but keep out the fags.' We're trying to fight an aids epidemic, but (removing the doors) may cause one more young sailor to try something he wouldn't otherwise do." Despite these misgivings, several clerks predict that the door off policy with only temporarily reduce peep show business. "The city council thinks it can kill the business by taking the doors off, but it won't," says the Candlelight clerk. "an arcade junkie is an arcade junkie. He'll cool it at first, but he'll be back in two weeks. In thirty days, business will be back up to ninety percent of what it was before." A clerk at pleasure land books predicts that business will slack off for just two weeks, and some owners are now designing complicated, mazelike booths that allow customers some degree of privacy while possibly satisfying the new ordinance. Another owner says he'll simply advise his customers to block the booth entrance with a metal trash can to keep out intruders, but deputy city attorney Anthony Stanley says the city's ordinance "is broad enough to prohibit any scheme to provide privacy for the viewers." And ford isn't very optimistic that the peep show business will bounce back. While he talks about a period of "readjustment, after which there's going to be a whole new bunch of (customers) who never knew there were doors." He predicts that successful enforcement of the peepshow ordinance will markedly reduce revenues. "I can't ever see it being the heyday it once was, "Ford says glumly.

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