Last time I wrote about Southwest Video, the Halethorpe business was closed even after the county Board of Appeals ruled it was improperly shut down by county officials. Southwest did eventually reopen – only to be shut down last week once again by county officials.
Meg Ferguson, the county hearing officer, ordered the business closed July 1 until it removed all of its “viewing booths and video display devices.” Ferguson also fined Southwest $13,200 on top of the $50,800 she fined the business in the spring for operating an adult entertainment business in a prohibited commercial zone.
Mike Mohler, deputy director of the county permitting office, said he and colleagues would be returning to Southwest today to make sure the video booths had been removed.
Howard Schulman, Southwest’s lawyer, called the closing illegal, alluding to his earlier, successful argument that a court order and the accompanying due process are necessary to shut the business down.
“The county unfortunately has resorted to illegal methods to enforce what it says is the law,” he said.
Schulman said Southwest is considering its legal options, one of which is to sue the county for damages in order to “decide the matter once and for all in a judicial setting.” (Southwest has filed two mandamus-related lawsuits against the county stemming from the zoning and code enforcement actions.)
All of this comes as the Baltimore County Council approved Tuesday more restrictive zoning laws for adult entertainment businesses. Among other changes, stores with adult content that exceeds 15 percent of the total inventory would be classified as adult entertainment businesses and must be located in manufacturing zones. That’s down from the 20-percent threshold but more than the 5-percent figure proposed in response to Halethorpe residents’ complaints about Southwest during a council session in May.
Schulman, who skimmed the legislation when I called him, said it seemed “too broad in terms of its scope and reach.”