County officials are trying to shut down a Grand Strand store that purports to be a smoke shop that also sells lingerie and magazines, but police say it’s an adult entertainment establishment that peddles forbidden items under the business license agreement.
The county yanked that license March 1 for the Cherry Boxxx on 4947 Highway 17 Bypass South — the former location of Airport Express Video, an adult entertainment business that was shut down in 2014 on charges of lewd behavior on the premises.
Kelvin Lewis was the owner of Airport Express video and also is the owner of Cherry Boxxx.
A hearing upheld the revocation of the business license; however, the owner is appealing and the shop remains open for business.
Lewis agreed to pull all sex paraphernalia and devices from the inventory in order to get the necessary license to reopen as the Cherry Boxxx. That license was granted June 30, court documents say.
Weeks later, a county police detective reported that the controversial items were back on the shelves.
The offenses were noted in August, September and January, but the license was not pulled until after the county council amended the business license law targeting nuisance businesses in January.
According to court documents, the sex paraphernalia was clearly evident and violates the business license agreement.
“A store with hundreds of sexual devices, a triple X logo on it(s) sign, and a life-sized blowup sex doll with a (male enhancement device) in its mouth where customers walk in the door cannot seriously maintain that it is not a sex paraphernalia store,” the hearing officer wrote.
The hearing officer said pornographic videos were also on display, as well as adult books.
“There is no doubt that Cherry Boxxx consistently and repeatedly features sexual devices. (The detective) repeatedly observed — and Cherry Boxxx does not contest — that at least 70 percent of the store was taken up by sexual devices and erotic media,” the hearing officer said.
“Additionally, the sign has a triple X logo in the stylized graphic that spells ‘Cherry Boxxx,’” the hearing officer said.
The lawyer for the Cherry Boxxx, Gene M. Connell Jr., of Surfside Beach, was tied up in mediation Wednesday and did not return a call for comment.
In the appeal, Connell does not address what items were for sale, but questions the legality of the county council’s amended business license law.
Connell challenges whether the ordinance can be applied retroactively, and questions whether the county administrator should have the sole authority to appoint the hearing officer without consent from the appealing party.
In this case, Conway lawyer Davis Inabnit Jr. acted as the hearing officer. Inabnit upheld the license revocation on May 11, and the appeal was filed May 22.
Connell cited numerous reasons as to why the new rules are unconstitutional, including the hearing officer’s authority to decide the rules of evidence and procedure, and to limit cross-examination of witnesses.
Lisa Bourcier, Horry County spokeswoman, said she was unable to comment on pending litigation, except to confirm that Lewis is appealing the business license revocation and their renewal.
The new county rules originally were intended to prevent criminal activity in food and drinking establishments that remain open after midnight.
However, the law says that the license inspector may decide to revoke or refuse to renew any business license when conditions upon which the license was granted is breached.