Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News
After hearing signs were not allowed in the S.L. Council chambers, Rossi Gunter, 4, and her sister Isabella, 6, move their protest sign.

For what it's worth, a lot more than 15 percent of Tuesday night's Salt Lake City Council meeting was devoted to discussion about an adult-novelty store.

More than 100 people packed the City Council chambers to let their elected officials know how they feel about the Blue Boutique's plans to set up shop in a neighborhood-commercial zone at 1400 East and 2100 South.

Most of those who spoke during the public-comment portion of the meeting were Sugar House residents who don't want the store relocating into their neighborhood, many of them calling the Blue Boutique a sexually oriented business and saying the city should recognize it as such.

"The Blue Boutique has the right to exist, but anyone can see that it does not belong in a historic, residential neighborhood," resident Edward Campos told the City Council. "You know it doesn't belong there. Do the right thing."

One Sugar House resident even offered members of the City Council an up-close look at the type of merchandise sold at the store, placing a pair of sex toys on the council dais.

"If you're offended (having sex toys) in these chambers, you should be offended for our neighborhood," Fred Conlon said as he was escorted from the council chambers by police.

Community activist Jan Haug presented the City Council a petition with more than 1,000 signatures of people who want the city to re-evaluate the requirements of the neighborhood-commercial zone with regard to the opening of the Blue Boutique.

Despite residents' impassioned pleas to the City Council to prevent the business from opening in their neighborhood, city attorney Ed Rutan said during work session earlier Tuesday that the issue really is out of council members' hands.

The way the city's SOB code and zoning ordinances have been written and interpreted by the city's business-licensing personnel, the Blue Boutique qualifies as a retail sales outlet, not a sexually oriented business, Rutan said.

Under city code, if less than 15 percent of a store's retail floor or shelf space is devoted to merchandise that is excluded from minors, it's not a sexually oriented business, he said.

The issue is clouded, however, by the second portion of the 20-year-old sexually-oriented-business code that deals with the types of items for sale or rent that constitutes the sexually oriented business tag, including "instruments, devices or paraphernalia" designated for sexual activities.

Residents argue that the sale of those items at the Blue Boutique should push it into the SOB category.

"The Blue Boutique sells instruments, devises and paraphernalia," said resident Sharon Pritchett. "That by itself would define the store as a sexually oriented business, and it would not be permitted in Sugar House."

The Blue Boutique, which specializes in lingerie, sex toys, adult videos and other adult merchandise, plans to open its doors in mid-December at its new Sugar House location — across the street from Sugar House Park and three blocks away from Highland High School.

It's a few blocks closer to the school than the Blue Boutique's previous location at 1080 E. 2100 South, which is planned for demolition as part of a redevelopment project.

The business has filed with the city to change its business license to a new location, which means it has vested land-use rights, Rutan said. If the city were to revise its zoning ordinance or rework the sexually-oriented-business portion of the code, those changes would not apply to those already vested under the law, including the Blue Boutique, he said.

That doesn't sit well with residents.

"It seems the city is only concerned in the vested interest of a business and not the vested interest of people who have homes there," said Julie Price, a longtime Sugar House resident.

E-mail: [email protected]