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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Adult store wants Montgomery's money

An adult entertainment store wants $500,000 from the city of Montgomery for being wrongly denied a business license, a sum that public officials plan to scrutinize before deciding whether to pay.

X-Mart Adult Supercenter at 3500 Birmingham Highway is seeking what it estimates is revenue it lost between September 2004 and July 2005 after being closed by the city.

Montgomery City Council members initially closed the store for operating without a business license, then kept it closed by denying its license application. X-Mart challenged the denial in federal court, which ruled this summer in its favor on free speech grounds.

X-Mart was closed for 275 days, and city lawyers have agreed to look at the store's earnings for 275 days from its reopening, said Gary Edinger, a lawyer representing ATM Express, the store's Florida-based parent company.

"It's a lot of taxpayer money," Edinger said, referring to the $500,000 figure. "We don't foresee any problems with them paying for the lost income but nothing has been finalized."

The city confirmed no settlement has been reached.

"We'll look forward to their data and will make an official response after we've seen their numbers," said Michael Briddell, executive assistant to Mayor Bobby Bright.

Edinger said ATM Express and the city filed motions to expedite the judge's ruling in hopes of saving taxpayers money. U.S. District Judge Vanzetta McPherson also ordered the city to pay the ATM Express $24,750 in attorney fees.

The mayor, in a previous interview, said the store was not denied a business license based on the pornographic material it sold, but because it initially chose to operate without a business license.

He also said, however, the city would not welcome similar businesses with "open arms."

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