Simply Sensual Goes to Court to Keep Doors Open

By Rick Smith, Reporter

Simply Sensual is located in Wiley Plaza in Cedar Rapids. Wednesday, January 9, 2012. Simply Sensual sells a variety of products, most of which are lingerie, yet it does sell a small assortment of other products. Owner Patricia Edmonds will meet with officials on Monday to determine whether her store is properly zoned for it's current location. (Kyle Grillot/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Simply Sensual has made no secret of its intent: It's now gone to court to see in this day and age if a strip mall storefront in the city can position itself as a lingerie shop and sell sex toys and explicit videos and magazines, too.

Patricia Edmonds, owner of Simply Sensual, 2129 Wiley Blvd. SW, and her attorney, Peter Riley of Cedar Rapids, have filed a lawsuit in Linn County District Court asking the court to reverse and vacate a January decision of the Cedar Rapids Board of Adjustment and a December cease-and-desist order by the city’s Building Services Division, actions which will close down Edmonds’ business at its current location.

The Building Services Division has said that Edmonds’s lingerie shop is an adult entertainment establishment under the city’s municipal code, which prohibits such an operation in the commercial zoning classification where Edmonds’ store is located. Edmonds’ store as an adult establishment also is too close to a church, a daycare and a residential area, according to the code.

In court documents, Edmonds’ attorney argues as Edmonds did in front of the city’s Board of Adjustment on Jan. 14 that her business is not an adult entertainment establishment nor is it an adult bookstore as first alleged by city officials last fall.

“The primary products sold by Simply Sensual are lingerie and novelties of a nature no different than offered by certain other retail establishments in Cedar Rapids, such as Spencer Gifts at Lindale Mall,” the Edmonds lawsuit states.

In quoting sections of the municipal code, the Edmonds’ lawsuit argues that “a substantial and significant portion” of Simply Sensual’s business is not devoted to the sale of “materials characterized by emphasis on depiction or description of specified sexual activities or specified anatomical areas.”

The legal action notes, too, that the municipal code identifies an adult bookstore as one where 10 percent or more of the floor space is devoted to adult materials. The adult material in Edmonds’ shop takes up less than 10 percent of the floor space and is behind a wall, the lawsuit states.

Raymond Nees, the city’s assistant manager for building services, successfully argued to the Board of Adjustment in January that a “significant and substantial” portion of Edmonds’ business involves adult entertainment items because removing the adult items from her inventory would be “detrimental” to the shop.

Nees said calling a business a lingerie shop doesn’t mean it isn’t being operated as an adult entertainment establishment.

Boats, he said, are allowed by the river in the city, mobile homes aren’t. You can’t put a mobile home by the river and call it a boat, Nees said.

Edmonds is asking the court to allow her to operate her business until the court rules on the merits of the case.

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