Town officials agree to give adult video store a Sunday sales license

Wednesday, May 20, 1998

Town officials in Middletown, R.I., recently issued a special Sunday sales license to Video Expo, an adult video and bookstore.

Rhode Island law requires retailers to obtain a special sales permit in order to conduct business on Sundays and holidays. Capital Video Corporation, which does business under the name Middletown Video Expo, applied for a permit in January.

Town officials rejected the application in early February, saying several council members felt the adult video store was “inappropriate” for the town.

However, the store filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that town officials had violated the store's First Amendment rights. In Capital Video Corp. v. Town of Middletown, the video store argued that the officials engaged in the “politically popular thing to do … contrary to core constitutional principles.”

Relying on the advice of their attorneys, town officials relented and granted the store the license. William Flynn, vice chairman of the Middletown Town Council, said: “The license was issued because our attorneys thought we had no basis to deny the license.”

Flynn said he was “not really happy” about the outcome. “You win some, you lose some,” he said. “I am a believer in the First Amendment,” he added, “but I still feel the community should have a say in what type of material is available.”

Roger Wilcox, attorney for the bookstore, said that “absolutely, this is a First Amendment victory. There was no legal basis for denying the license in the first place.”

Wilcox said the only remaining issues in the case deal with attorney fees.