Instantly Illegal

After seventeen years in business, Lambda Passages, Miami's premier gay and lesbian bookstore, is in the fight of its life

Yet Drew and Sprouse's ex-business partner claim that years ago the store was exempted from the adult-entertainment law. Besides, says the former business associate, “with the exception of Blockbuster, every other video store in Miami has an adult section. We've been to every one of them. It's a First Amendment right.” Lambda can trade in adult material, they maintain, because it's been doing so since the day it opened in 1983. When the City of Miami adult-entertainment ordinance was passed in 1990, Lambda Passages was automatically “grandfathered” in, says Drew. His assertion was corroborated by Upper Eastside code-enforcement officer Emilio Pellicer, who testified to that fact at the May code-enforcement hearing. But zoning administrator Juan Gonzalez remains skeptical. “We'll have to research that one,” he warns.

Not surprisingly, John Drew has had to hire an attorney to defend himself against the city. The lawyer, Fort Lauderdale's well-known personal-rights advocate Norman Kent, says Miami officials have already made a terrible legal mistake. “It's been an administrative hack on the part of the city, and I'm prepared to argue it in circuit court,” he vows. “The ordinance says that to be adult entertainment, you have to sell only adult materials and only to adults. Lambda is not an establishment that sells adult merchandise exclusively. It's not even a business that sells primarily adult products. It's like saying the Alliance Cinema is an adult theater because occasionally they show an adult film.

John Drew fears the code-enforcement board will make him relocate his business
Steve Satterwhite
John Drew fears the code-enforcement board will make him relocate his business

“So the city is wrong again,” Kent continues. “I've never been so sure I'm going to win a case. I'm so sure I'm right on this that to me it's a nonissue.... The bigger issue here is that the entire City of Miami seems to be targeting gay and lesbian businesses, and they're going to have some serious problems if that's true.”

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