Forum Editorial: Fargo’s refusal to allow Romantix to move its downtown location is silly and self-defeating
By refusing to grant a permit allowing Romantix to move, the city of Fargo likely is making it more difficult to redevelop the blighted 400 block of NP Avenue, a major downtown eyesore.
There’s a huge irony in Fargo City Hall’s stubborn opposition to allowing Romantix to move a short distance from its current location to a corner in the heart of downtown.
The city’s efforts to redevelop the shabby, underutilized 400 block of NP Avenue , where Romantix is located, have been thwarted for decades, in no small part because the business that describes itself as “America’s premier adult toy retailer in Fargo” has refused to move.
Now it wants to move a few hundred yards, from 417 NP Avenue to 74 Broadway, but the city is standing in the way by refusing to issue a “change of use” permit.
The dispute has landed in U.S. District Court , where Romantix is asking a judge to order the city to grant the permit. The city’s refusal to do so, the store argues, is a violation of its constitutional free speech and due process rights.
Granted, Romantix’ new location is in a more visible part of downtown, but would the move really be the end of civilization as we know it, which city commissioners seem to think.
This dispute is more than a little bizarre, given that a few blocks from Romantix’ proposed new location on Broadway, the Northern Gentlemen's Club has been a venue for exotic dancing and serving liquor for years.
“Lovely Ladies and Table Dances!” the Northern’s website entices. “All Night, Every Night!” Events include “Topless Tuesday” and artwork adorning the club’s exterior includes shapely silhouettes of women.
It’s not very subtle, and nobody pays much attention to it.
At 2551 45th Street S. Enchantasys operates a store much like Romantix. Enchantasys sells “adult toys, novelties, lingerie.”
But not a peep from City Hall.
Anyone who is offended by what’s offered at establishments like Romantix, the Northern Gentlemen’s Club and Enchantasys has an easy remedy: They can stay away.
Adults, exercising their own judgment and free will, can enter these businesses. Nobody is forcing them. They are legal enterprises.
Also, Romantix has an incentive not to be overtly offensive; it has to attract patrons or risk going out of business.
Again, the irony of City Hall’s self-defeating actions is inescapable: City officials’ eagerness to conduct themselves as morals police is standing in the way of the city’s longstanding goal of redeveloping the 400 block of NP Avenue, once home to Fargo’s skid row.
Before they were demolished in 1993, the seedy strip included dive bars like the Round Up Lounge, where police often responded to assaults and muggings, and the Pink Pussycat Lounge.
The city knocked them down, with the hope that they would be redeveloped. But the building housing Romantix remains, surrounded by surface parking lots. The refusal of Romantix to move was a major obstacle in those efforts.
The 400 block of NP Avenue presents an eyesore that detracts far more from downtown Fargo than an “adult toy retailer” would. Again, Romantix has been a downtown fixture for years — and would move into a location that has been mostly vacant for many years.
City Hall should issue Romantix the permit. If it loses the lawsuit, the judge would probably be doing the city a favor.