Hustler store sues state to keep banner up

CINCINNATI (AP) - Representatives of an adult entertainment store owned by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt are suing to keep state officials from taking down a makeshift banner advertising the store.
Hustler of Hollywood-Ohio Inc. seeks a temporary restraining order to keep the Ohio Department of Transportation from removing the sign, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The company also seeks unspecified damages and court costs.
The banner hanging from a building along Interstate 75 promotes the store in suburban Monroe. Hamilton County zoning officials ordered its removal in March, saying it violated zoning laws and was too close to the highway.
The state joined the fight in April, saying a sign within 500 feet of a freeway interchange is a safety risk. An April 22 letter from the Transportation Department threatened fines and said the store had a month to remove the banner, or state crews would do it.
The complaint accuses the department of trying to violate constitutional rights to free speech and protection from property seizure, and disputes that the sign is within 500 feet of an interchange.
Messages were left Friday with state Attorney General Jim Petro, whose office will represent the Transportation Department in court.
The store sells sexually oriented products, including explicit videos, sex toys, and the Hustler line of clothing and lingerie.
The company has said groups opposing the store have persuaded billboard companies to refuse to rent signs to Hustler.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)