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Romantix asks court to force Fargo to allow move to new downtown site

The owners of the adult-oriented store say the city of Fargo has violated its free speech and due process rights in denying its attempt to open a retail store in the Syndicate Building.

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The owners of the Romantix adult entertainment store want to move the shop to a space in the Syndicate Building at 74 Broadway in downtown Fargo. The Syndicate Building is seen here July 28, 2022.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
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FARGO — Attorneys for the Romantix adult entertainment store recently filed a motion in federal court for a preliminary injunction seeking to force the city of Fargo and its top planning staffer to allow the store to open in the Syndicate Building on Broadway.

The motion requests that the court force the city and Director of Planning and Development Nicole Crutchfield to drop objections to a Romantix move to 74 Broadway, in the heart of the downtown district.

Romantix's request for the injunction in the case, which has been referred to Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal, asserts that the city’s actions are unconstitutional and infringe on the company’s First Amendment and due process rights.

The request, filed Nov. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, also asks the court to prohibit the city from applying its definitions of “adult bookstore” and “adult entertainment center” to Romantix, or from using the “change of use” permitting process against the firm.

The filing asks the court to require the city to complete any inspections and other approvals needed for Romantix to move into the Syndicate Building, plus any “other or additional relief” that “the Court deems just and proper.”

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A 28-page brief in support of Romantix’s request for the preliminary injunction was also filed Nov. 7. That brief echoes the arguments presented in Romantix’s lawsuit against the city, which was filed Oct. 25 in federal court.

The Nov. 7 brief further details the arguments against Fargo’s application of its “change of use” permitting requirement, which is described as vague, applied in an ad hoc manner and in a way that acts as an unfettered prior restraint to free speech. The brief also asserts that the city has violated Romantix’s right to due process. Romantix’s attorneys argue that those actions violate the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of Romantix’s owners under the U.S. Constitution.

Romantix currently operates at 417 NP Ave. N., across the street from the MATBUS main transfer hub.

The brief concludes by saying that Romantix is being harmed by having its First Amendment rights infringed, that a preliminary injunction wouldn’t cause others harm and that the public’s interests are served by protecting the constitutional rights of the owners.

On Monday, Nov. 14, the Fargo City Commission received and filed several documents in the case as part of the consent agenda. Those documents include a summons, the federal complaint and an index of exhibits in the case,

City Attorney Nancy Morris told The Forum she had no comment on the case, but that “we will continue to work with counsel” appointed by the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund, which is an insurer for local governments.

“I really don’t have any comment on the pending motion at this time,” Morris said.

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Howard Swanson, a former Grand Forks city attorney, is handling the case for the city and planning director Crutchfield, Morris said.

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Romantix seeks to move to a 3,500-square-foot street-level storefront on 74 Broadway, which it says it will operate as a retail sales and service establishment, rather than as an adult bookstore or adult entertainment center.

The company that operates Romantix has said the store has a seven-year lease for 74 Broadway, and has spent more than $400,000 on improvements, travel, inventory, shipping and fixtures for the store.

The company has also pointed out that its inventory mix will be similar to that of the three Enchantasys stores now operating in Fargo.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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