A company that operates adult-themed stores in New Mexico and Texas is trying to open up shop at 1494 Cerrillos Road, formerly the location of Mu Du Noodles. But no one with the business would agree to tell SFR exactly what kind of shop.
Harris News Inc., whose address is in Dallas, owns three adult-themed businesses in Albuquerque—Adult Video, Viewpoint Adult Video and Big Eye—and at least one in Dallas. It obtained a deed to the former restaurant property near the intersection of Cerrillos and Second Street on April 18.
The company is affiliated with Arcade News, an adult store located further south at 2821 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe. Customers at Arcade News can purchase women’s lingerie, a wide assort of lubricants and sex toys, adult-themed media and tickets to private viewing booths.
On our recent visit, a woman who identified herself as the store manager told SFR she was in contact with workers at the 1494 Cerrillos location, where we stopped first, but said any questions about its operations would have to be directed to the workers there.
“I have two words for you: Free advertising,” the woman cryptically tells SFR. “I’ve heard a lot of funny rumors about what’s opening up there. I’m not involved with it.”
Mu Du shut its doors after 23 years last August, but neighbors say the kitchen equipment didn’t leave the building until this summer. In recent weeks, the building appeared to be under renovation, and packages of women’s sexy-time clothes could be seen sitting on racks inside. A man wearing a sleeveless shirt inside the shop shook his head and laughed when asked about the possibility of an adult bookstore opening at the location, and declined to take more questions.
SFR couldn’t reach Abram Deleon, whom state records identify as Harris News’ registered agent, or John A Coil, its director.
City officials don’t have much information about the shop either.
“We’re hearing a lot of rumors about that property, and I need some confirmation because I’m getting calls from city councilors asking what’s going on,” Land Use Department Director Lisa Martinez tells SFR.
Mike Purdy, the director of the city’s inspections and enforcement division, writes in an email that an employee of Harris News named Joe Canales told him the business would be be a women’s clothing store. Some neighbors say that men at the location described it an adult bookstore. City records show no one has sought a certificate of occupancy or a business license, both of which would be required for a new business.
Since last Friday, after visits from reporters, city officials and neighbors, somebody hung a T-shirt on the front door of the building that can be seen through a plate of glass. “BAH FUCKING HUMBUG,” the shirt reads.
That kind of attitude worries Peter Olson, who lives about a block away from the business. He says workers have removed a railing and chipped away one of the concrete steps in front of the business so that a ramp could be connected between the back of a moving truck and the front door, where he observed workers hauling kitchen equipment out of the building.
Olson believes the apparent plan to open an adult-themed store within 1,000 feet of a district zoned for residential use— as well as near to two youth-centered entities (the Santa Fe Indian School and ¡Youthworks!) and a city park—violates city rules for sexually oriented businesses.
“To me [it] sends a message these people either don’t care about that or are trying to do something sneaky,” Olson tells SFR. “It causes me to wonder how far will they go pushing the limits on this.”
In the past, Harris News has pushed limits in similar ways.
In 1998, the company filed a federal lawsuit against the New Mexico city Sunland Park to prevent the town from shutting down its business there. Officials said that Adult Video, which straddled the Texas-New Mexico border, sat too close to a residential area.
The parties settled and the store agreed to limit its advertising. But the town later took renewed legal action, this time in a state court, after Adult Video provided nude dancing on its premises and displayed a truck with the words “Adult Video” in its parking lot, which was located in El Paso.
A district court agreed that Harris News had broken its obligations and granted the town’s injunction ordering the closure of Adult Video, but a decision by the Court of Appeals in 2005 reversed that order. The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld that ruling.
Across the country, similar businesses have launched aggressive legal fights in federal court to undermine local ordinances.
“Cities often don’t want adult bookstores in their neighborhoods or even their cities, but unfortunately for them, they can’t just ban them because of the First Amendment,” says Stephen G Peters, an attorney in El Paso who represented Harris News against Sunland Park in state court. “The city council members, they’re not usually First Amendment specialists, and the rules are pretty complex—and so often the ordinances that are seeking to restrict sexually oriented businesess often overreach. And the remedy for that is usually a lawsuit under the federal civil rights act.”
Adult Video remains at the same location in Sunland Park today.