The Baltimore City Council came out squarely against smut last night and approved banning adult video stores from virtually every neighborhood shopping district.
Under an ordinance that was rapidly and unanimously endorsed by the council, X-rated video stores would be restricted to heavy commercial districts or The Block, the legendary red-light district in downtown Baltimore.
The legislation targets stores that specialize in sexually explicit videos, not corner video parlors that offer mainly family films but also include a selection of adult videos.
First District Councilman John L. Cain, who introduced the proposal several months ago, pushed for a speedy approval in an attempt to prevent a video parlor that will sell X-rated movies for 99 cents from opening in Highlandtown.
Mr. Cain said he became concerned after neighboring merchants complained that an adult video store was about to move into a boarded-up shop in the 3900 block of Eastern Ave. The property is owned by the parents of 1st District Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr.
A flushed Mr. D'Adamo stood up last night to confront his colleague over the video store. Mr. D'Adamo accused Mr. Cain of spreading rumors in Highlandtown that he owned the shop and was planning to sell pornographic movies.
"I want to ask my colleague . . . to have some respect for me," said Mr. D'Adamo, who went on to vote for the legislation.
His parents, Grace and Nicholas D'Adamo Sr., plan to rent the store to a company that is opening the Avenue News and Video, which will offer mainly mainstream movies for 99 cents, he said. About 35 percent of the videos would be sexually explicit, Mr. D'Adamo said.
Mr. Cain, who denied rumor-mongering, said residents of Highlandtown have shuddered at the prospect of a store specializing in sex, titillation and videotapes. He plans to ask Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to sign the bill into law as early as today in an attempt to block the shop from opening.
But Mr. Cain acknowledged that the store would not be affected by the ordinance if it only offers a limited selection of adult videos, as described by Mr. D'Adamo.
Attempts by cities across the nation to regulate and restrict adult video stores have been upheld in court, said Stuart Comstock-Gay, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Baltimore. However, cities have not been permitted to ban all X-rated video parlors.
Maria G. Zannino, a mother of eight and grandmother who has lived in Highlandtown for 35 years, said she was "really shocked" to hear that a neighborhood store would soon be selling adult videos. "I'm saddened," she said. "Why are they moving it down here? Why, why, why?"
Mr. Cain introduced the proposal after receiving complaints from residents of Armistead Gardens, a working-class community off Pulaski Highway and Erdman Avenue, when a discount adult video store opened there in 1993.
Hundreds of residents signed petitions calling for the X-rated video parlor to close. But the Adult Video Outlet, a brightly lighted shop that stocks 3,000 sexually explicit videos, was permitted under existing ordinances even though the council had passed legislation to limit strip clubs and X-rated bookstores to The Block.
Four months ago, the council approved greater regulations for The Block. After six years of negotiations between city officials and the owners of businesses in the district, rules were adopted to ban barkers from outside establishments, regulate the flashing signs and require that establishments be licensed.