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Fantasy's owners suing Grand Forks, East Grand Forks for blocking stores

Kim Patterson stands next to some of the costumes being sold at Fantasy's in Fargo. Dave Wallis / The Forum

GRAND FORKS - The owners of Fantasy's, an adult-themed store, are taking legal action against the cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, saying they were illegally blocked from opening businesses in the two cities.

Owner Jim Patterson on Tuesday filed an administrative appeal in Grand Forks County District Court against the city's ordinance, passed in April, restricting where adult stores can operate. He filed a complaint against the city of East Grand Forks in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on Wednesday.

"We're going after both of the cities at the same time," Patterson said. "They pushed us into this."

He said he had to pursue legal options after the cities would not cooperate with him. "They basically told us they're not working with us."

East Grand Forks City Administrator Scott Huizenga said he received the complaint Thursday afternoon and forwarded it to the city attorney. Grand Forks City Attorney Howard Swanson could not be reached Thursday.

Patterson and his wife Kim, who owns Fantasy's in Fargo, attempted to open similar stores selling lingerie, novelties and sexual devices in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, only to have them blocked by restrictions on where adult businesses can be located.

They planned to but were unable to open a store at 418 N. Washington St. in Grand Forks, which is about a block away from Winship Elementary School.

The Pattersons also briefly opened a store at 207 Second Ave. N.E. in East Grand Forks without telling the city, but city officials forced them to close.

Both legal actions argue that ordinances restricting the location of adult businesses are unconstitutional and inappropriately applied to the Pattersons' business.

The appeal filed in Grand Forks states that the city's ordinance regulating the sale of sexual devices violates rights of privacy.

"The overly broad and vague definition of sexual paraphernalia store unduly limits the free provision of these items and infringes upon the private sexual conduct right, without any proper bases or reasons," it states.

It also questions the ordinance's claim of harmful secondary effects by adult businesses as a justification for restricting such businesses. According to the appeal, none of the cases of harmful effects cited by the city apply to "sex paraphernalia stores," the category the city applies to Fantasy's.

The appeal also challenges the ordinance's definition of a sexual paraphernalia store as a business that "regularly advertises itself or holds itself out, in any medium, as an establishment that caters to adult sexual interests." It argues the definition violates constitutional rights to commercial speech.

The complaint against the city of East Grand Forks, which lists Fantasysrus 2 LLC as the plaintiff, makes similar arguments about the constitutionality of the city's restrictions on where sexually-oriented businesses can operate.

East Grand Forks' zoning ordinances restrict adult businesses to industrial zones.

That law applies to several kinds of sexually-oriented businesses, including bookstores, video stores, cabarets, theaters and other places. It does not apply to Fantasy's, the complaint argues, since only a small part of the shop's inventory would meet any definition of sexually oriented in the city code.

"They're trying to classify us as an adult bookstore, which we're not," Patterson said.

Patterson said he believes the administration of both cities are discriminating against him.

"I'm taking it personally. It's not the business. It's me. They don't want me in Grand Forks," he said.

Despite the setbacks to his business, he believes he will get his way.

"We're going to take it all the way, and we're going to open," he said.