The test of democracy is freedom of criticism

They’re trying to build a publicly-financed ballpark/development in Richmond, and woe be unto those who oppose it:

The debate over a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom is getting louder, especially at 15th and East Main streets. A large, bright yellow sign, exclaiming “No Stadium in Shockoe,” hangs from the side of the building above the neon-lit Club Velvet strip club.

Richmond inspectors slapped the building owner with a zoning-violation notice last week, saying the sign exceeds size limits and was not approved. Club Velvet is allowed 175 square feet of signs along Main, and it has 14 days to appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals, according to the notice.

Clearly this police action against free speech rights is legal based on the well-known exception to the First Amendment which denies expression rights to those people we find unsavory and whose views are unpopular.

In any event, how much you wanna bet that a pro-ballpark sign wouldn’t have led to a citation? Let’s make it a parlay: how much you wanna bet that if the ballpark is built, its backers will (a) immediately begin a campaign of their own against the existence of strip clubs in their nice family-friendly ballpark-filled neighborhood; and (b) won’t be subject to any sign-size limitations.

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  1. The Common Man said...

    I would like to bet a bazillion dollars, sir.  What?  It is not a made up number.

    I do feel bad for the city council members and other city officials though.  Here they were trying to enjoy their lap dances and they had to think about how corrupt they all were.  Bad form, Club Velvet.

  2. Chris H. said...

    You may well be right, Craig, but I feel compelled to point out that local zoning boards often get wrapped up in their own importance.  I strongly recommend that all suburban readers take the time to read the minutes of their local planning commissions and zoning boards of appeal, because (A) they’ll educate you on all of the wacky rules about signs and hedges and so forth that you are probably unaware of, and (B) they are frequently (unintentionally) hilarious.

    Paragraphs of grown adults arguing about whether signs should be allowed to go 3 inches above the limit.  Pages of debate on the merits of “turn here” signs, stacking space, and parking lot/store space ratios.  Komedy Klassics all.

    So while you may be on to something here, Craig, it’s also entirely possible that the local planning commission was truly outraged at the size of the sign relative to the allowable sign size.  Really.

  3. mb9rk said...

    Craig, you may be right, but there is some background.

    Going to law school in Richmond and frequenting downtown a lot, I know that the owner of Club Velvet, Shawn Moore, has had a few run ins with police down here.  Last year he was arrested on charges of statutory rape after he (allegedly) took videos of him sleeping with underage girls. Turns out they couldn’t convict him of the rape charge and he got a 2 month sentence.  He’s been in trouble in the past as well. Additionally, he lives right above the strip club, where this sign was located. 

    I have no idea what the ordinance laws here are, but its possible that this has to do with the ballpark after the Braves left, but I suppose it could be a vendetta against him or just an ordinance situation.  Hell, could be a combination of all three.

  4. Anthony said...

    Mr. Sam Moore has also killed a man in the past, outside a bar in Shockoe bottom sometime in the late 80’s/90’s. ( he has the tear tatto under his eye)  He got off with very little jail time, likely having to do with wealthy parents and being from old VA money; dad was a judge or something along those lines.

    While I’ve never been to club velvet, it is notorious for drugs and “services” rendered in the upstairs lounge. This does not sit well with the Local pols, and when he wanted to put a new semi-nude club across the street from the children’s museum they became even more incensed.

  5. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Well, fine.  If the club is a menace, there are laws to shut it down. If Moore is a criminal, he should be dealt with in the appropriate fashion.

    But the point of the First Amendment is not to only protect the popular speech of nice folks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If what you guys are telling me is true, if I lived in that neighborhood I’d be trying pretty hard to have the stip club shut down.  If I were the police I’d have a close eye on this Moore character as well.

    What I probably wouldn’t be doing is deploying sign ordinances to stifle legitimate political expression, even if it came from a low life.

  6. Basil said...

    “Clearly this police action against free speech rights is legal based on the well-known exception to the First Amendment which denies expression rights to those people we find unsavory and whose views are unpopular.”

    OPPOSITION to a ballpark would be considered unsavory in this instance? Clearly, you don’t know a thing about Richmond.

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