Store closes, but the court case endures

March 5, 2009
By

By Seth Daniel
seth@reverejournal.com

The porn store is no more.

An adult bookstore that has been the source of a Constitutional litigation case with the city over the last 17 years has shut its doors this week.

The Moon-Lite Reader (also known as T & D Video) on Washington Avenue – formerly of Bell Circle – is now closed due to location problems, a downturn in the economy and a lack of reliable employees, according to co-owner Ted Drabkowski.

“We’re closed,” said Drabkowski on Monday morning. “I’m not sure if it’s a temporary issue or something more permanent, but we’re closed for the short term, at least, and maybe it could become a permanent situation.”

Mayor Tom Ambrosino said he was glad to hear the store had shut down.

“I’m glad to hear they’re out of business,” he said. “That eliminates that neighborhood problem…Those stores are pretty much going the way of regular video stores. You can get anything you want now in the privacy of your own home. It just sort of proves our point that this is readily available on the Internet and the city wasn’t infringing on anyone’s rights to free speech.”

A small, handwritten sign on the door was all that was left of the controversial store this week, noting that it was closed permanently.

Drabkowski said the economic situation and the new location of the store were two key factors in its demise. The store moved from Bell Circle to 810 Washington Ave. in 2006, amidst great public outcry.

“The economy in general has affected us, and moving to that particular location wasn’t exactly beneficial to us because in our business we need to be on a well traveled road,” said Drabkowski. “Being over on Washington Avenue just wasn’t a good place for us in terms of having a well traveled location.”

He added they had trouble finding reliable employees to man the store.

“Not only were our business numbers down, but also we couldn’t get good help at all,” he said. “We went through a half dozen or so. The last employee we let go of after only working three or four days for us, and we had to let him go because he was basically looting us.”

The store’s closure may mean a victory for the immediate Linden Square neighborhood – which vociferously opposed the move in 2006 – but it doesn’t mean any relief for the city’s wallet.

The merits of the case, with all of their Constitutional free speech implications, were decided long ago. Even Drabkowski said he and his business partner have been out of the case for quite some time.

What is at issue now is paying the lawyers.

Because Moon-Lite won the case, the city is on the hook for paying more than a decade of attorney fees.

At one point, several years ago, a superior court judge awarded the attorneys $1.2 million plus interest in the case. That was later overturned, and ever since then, both sides have been trying to come to a mutual agreement.

Early last year, the city settled one part of the case for $204,000. It dealt with a state Appeals Court case that resulted from the fight over an initial court injunction that was imposed on the city 17 years ago. That piece of the case went all the way to the state Supreme Judicial Court and back again, with the settlement finally coming last year.

However, the main case is still unsettled as to the attorneys’ fees, and may not be settled anytime soon.

“It’s been remanded for a new trial,” said the mayor. “We’re looking for a settlement of something in the $400,000 range, and I think they’re looking for something in the $800,000 range. Hopefully, we’ll settle for something that makes sense.”

An attorney from Dewey & LeBoeuf, Christopher DeMayo, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment on his firm’s position on the case.

Asked if he felt it ironic that the city was still held down by the case even after the store had closed up, Mayor Ambrosino said it was worse than ironic.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “The city has wanted out of this case for a long time. I think their lawyers are greedy.”

Drabkowski said they have several other locations that remain open and they may be looking to open up the Revere store in another location. By zoning laws, they can only open up in the Technology and Enterprise District (TED), which is mostly situated on Lee Burbank Highway.

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