Horry County store labeled unlicensed ‘adult entertainment establishment’

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Horry County is trying to shut down the Cherry Boxxx Boutique because it says the store is operating as an unlicensed adult entertainment establishment.

Court documents show the county revoked the business license from owner, Kelvin Lewis, on March 1. However, recently filed court documents show Lewis’ attorney, Gene Connell, is appealing the decision.

The store advertises itself as a smoke shop that also sells lingerie, magazines and DVDs. Documents say a detective visited the store and saw “sex paraphernalia and sexually explicit videos.. being offered at the establishment,” which violates zoning codes.

The Cherry Boxxx Boutique was previously called the Airport Express. It was shut down by the county in 2014 because it was deemed a public nuisance.

“The way these things come to our attention is the Police Chief in that particular area would call and say we’re getting a lot of complaints about this place,” said Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor, Jimmy Richardson.

However, a few years later, Lewis re-applied for his license through the zoning board and agreed to remove all sex paraphernalia and devices.

The documents say County Zoning Administrator Rennie Mincey visited the store and found it to be in compliance with zoning codes.

However, in August 2016 detectives found “sex paraphernalia and sexually explicit videos.. being offered at the establishment.” Therefore, the county said, the Cherry Boxxx Boutique was unlawfully operating as an adult entertainment establishment.

One detective said at least 70% of the store “was taken up by sexual devices and erotic media.”

Richardson said what the store is doing is not criminal.

“All of that is zoning laws and that’s what they’re dealing with now,” Richardson adds. “They do control that sort of thing by business license and that’s what’s going on here.”

Documents from May 22 explain why the Cherry Boxxx Boutique is appealing the decision of the hearing office revoking its business license.

Fifteen reasons are given and most of them address Horry County Ordinance 92-16. It’s the ordinance recently amended to cut out “problem businesses.” The ordinance has several sections, but requires late night establishments to identify who will be operating the business, give any criminal or nuisance history, and businesses serving alcohol after midnight will have to complete a safety plan.

The documents say the ordinance was created after the Cherry Boxxx Boutique received its business license and therefore “it is error to retroactively apply this newly enacted business license statute to a business which was approved for a license prior to the enactment of the ordinance.”

It also says the ordinance is unconstitutional for many reasons including:

  • in that the hearing procedure to revoke a business license is vague, arbitrary and capricious
  • in that it violates Appellant’s free speech and/or free expression rights.
  • in that the Ordinance does not provide for notice of the procedural rules to be used by Horry County.
  • in that Section 12.5-108(d) provides that Appellant must request certain questions be asked of adverse witnesses in cross-examination. The error being that Appellant was not allowed to ask those questions by the Hearing Officer and that there were no rules of procedure or evidence as to why the Hearing Officer denied the questions from being presented to the adverse witnesses

Richardson said these claims are common.

“You see it all the time in strip clubs and those sort of things,” Richardson says. “Whether or not these are constitutional, that can’t be tested without going to court and this will appear to be the first test of that.”

The Cherry Boxxx Boutique is still open. Horry County Spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said provisions in state law allows the store to continue to operate while the appeal is taking place.

News13 reached out to Lewis and his attorney but we have not been able to speak with them. We will continue to update you on this case.

You can read Cherry Boxxx Boutique’s appeal documents here and here.