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Christopher Bjorke, Grand Forks Herald , Published March 26 2012

Petition opposes adult-oriented store near Grand Forks elementary school

GRAND FORKS - Some people here have started a petition opposing an adult-oriented store that plans to open a block from Winship Elementary School.

“We believe in keeping a child’s innocence as long as possible,” petition supporters wrote in a flier asking people to sign an online petition to prevent the business from opening at 418 N. Washington St. “Should a six-year-old child be subjected to see this store while at school? Not only that but who knows what type of people may be entering or lurking around?”

Fantasy’s, the Fargo business moving into the space, would sell lingerie in the front of the store, but would also devote part of the store to adults-only merchandise, such as sex toys and DVDs. That section of the store would be restricted to customers 18 and older, according to owner Jim Patterson.

Caroline Gallegos helped distribute the fliers over the weekend. She does not have a child at Winship, but said the business would bring in people she would not want near children.

“It’s a basic common sense thing that a store like that attracts a certain type of clientele,” she said.

Patterson has told city leaders that many of the things he sells are oriented toward couples and women or are for bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Gallegos said she had not given much thought to the store until one day when she was stopped at the traffic light next to the store. “There was a group of 20 kindergarten-age kids with a crossing guard waiting to cross,” she said. “I thought, ‘That’s messed up.’”

The petition is posted on www.change.org, a website that helps users create and circulate petitions. It had 225 signatures Monday afternoon.

Among the comments left by signers were, “The location is morally wrong” and “I’m not raising my kids around smut.”

According to the flier, the petitioners do not want to put the store out of business, but they want it in a different location.

Last week, the City Council gave initial approval to an ordinance that would create a license requirement for sexually oriented businesses of several types, including those selling sexual devices. The council will return to the ordinance April 2.

Patterson said he had believed that he could go ahead with the store based on conversations he had with city staff, but now “they’ve kind of changed the rules on us.”

The store would not allow minors access to sexually explicit products, he said, and the lingerie in the front would be similar to what is sold at Victoria’s Secret or other stores.

He said he is open to talking to city officials about the store, but he is not considering another location yet.

“At this time, no. We feel we’re in the right,” Patterson said. “If they make us illegal, that’s a violation of our rights.”