In response to renewed complaints from the community, Baltimore County has renewed code enforcement against Lovecraft, an adult video store on the 5600 block of Southwestern Boulevard that of many residents.
Across the street from the new MARC Halethorpe Station under construction, Lovecraft by paying nearly $60,000 in fines and penalties just before the deadline.
According to officials and residents, the video store has once again installed more video booths than allowed by law and is being used for hook-ups by gay men looking for anonymous sex.
“It’s not like they’re hiding it,” said Pete Kriscumas, community liaison for councilman Tom Quirk at a recent meeting of Arbutus Improvement Association. “They’re on the internet saying, ‘Hey, the Arbutus bookstore is back open’ and telling you what they’re doing in there. You can Google it.”
Mike McAuliffe, president of , said that there are listings mentioning Lovecraft on the men-for-men section of Craigslist and other sites.
The interior of the store is equipped with video booths that are only partially separated, potentially allowing for anonymous sex, according to sources.
“About 75 percent of the store is set aside for these viewing booths,” McAuliffe said. “It’s littered with condoms and tissues. Whether it’s men or women, what’s going on there doesn’t belong in the neighborhood.”
According to court records, a county code inspector visited the business on Jan. 26 and found it “operating unlawfully.”
Under codes that went into effect last July, businesses must limit the amount of floor space and sales generated by adult material to 15 percent.
“I observed that there appeared to be an even greater percentage of adult products for sale than in past inspections,” Chip Raynor, inspector with the county’s Code Inspection and Enforcement office, wrote in documents filed with the court.
The county is moving aggressively to put Lovecraft out of business, the store's lawyer said. According to court records, county attorneys filed a request for a temporary injunction on Feb. 9 to shut down the business. That request was denied by the court on Feb. 17. Meanwhile, the case for a permanent injunction continues, according to sources.
“The county has moved very aggressively to shut it down,” said Baltimore attorney Howard Schulman, who represents Lovecraft.
The county previously tried to shut down Lovecraft in 2010, according to court records. The video store removed the video booths and complaints from the community eased for a while.
“The booths were gone for a year-and-a-half,” McAuliffe said. “They just showed up weeks ago, and the boys are back.”
Schulman claims that Lovecraft is in compliance with county codes and laws, and said that he will “aggressively defend their constitutional rights.”
“It is operating within the confines of the county’s ordinances,” he said. “There have been efforts to comply with the county’s ordinances.”
McAuliffe said that the video store should operate in other areas of southwest Baltimore County that are more industrial, and not in a residential community.
“It does not belong in the neighborhood,” McAuliffe said. “It’s a blight on the neighborhood that we’d like to get rid of.”