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Surrey 1, porn theatre 0

Roxxxy's throws in the film towel

"They're closing me with red tape," says porn theatre owner Tony Perry. Credit: George Smeltzer

Tony Perry says he’s the victim of a legal war of attrition against sex by the City of Surrey.

Generally acknowledged as the grandfather of the Lower Mainland’s adult industry, Perry recently decided it wasn’t worth his while to keep fighting to keep a porn theatre open next to his old sex shop near the intersection of King George Highway and 108th Ave.

Perry says the city banned sex shops in Surrey in April.

Though he has a 25-year-old store safely grandfathered at that intersection, he says his new store and theatre ran into licensing problems from city officials hoping to revitalize the area.

Perry’s new initiative sits just blocks from the area the City of Surrey and its mayor, Dianne Watts, are eyeing as the showpiece of a reinvigorated urban community. Those plans include a new city hall.

Soon after he opened the new shop plus theatre last November, the city launched competitions for ideas to reinvigorate its neighbourhoods. It wasn’t long before inspectors began visiting Perry’s business.

He maintains it was harassment.

Then he received a letter telling him his business licence for the new porn shop had been revoked. Meanwhile, the licence for the theatre simply never arrived.

“They’re closing me with red tape,” he says. “I was zoned right.”

What’s more, he alleges, the city has kept almost $6,400 in licensing fees.

“I never got the licence. The other one was cancelled as it was issued in error. Do I get my licence fees back?”

Surrey bylaw and licensing services manager Ed Warzel says the money will be returned as the process moves forward.

Warzel told Xtra in April that the licence for the porn theatre was issued in error, but wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of the error.

He says Perry is now withdrawing his licensing applications. “The part [Perry] was intending to add onto, that isn’t going forward.”

“I wasn’t aware I had withdrawn (the applications),” Perry counters.

Watts was once again unavailable for comment.

“I don’t think anyone wants that type of business,” Watts told The Province in March. “It is not the type of business we go out recruiting to come to the city, let me put it that way.”

Giving businesses that are deemed undesirable the cold shoulder is not unknown in Surrey.

“In the past, Surrey has taken several measures to dissuade some businesses from remaining in or setting up shop in this city, starting about 10 years ago with a hemp store in Guildford,” the Surrey Leader reported in March.

Perry has said he’s the target of a morality sweep aimed at sanitizing the area.

Warzel disputes that.

“That’s his opinion,” Warzel says. “I don’t know of any conspiracy going on. We’re just doing our jobs.”

Perry says he’d prefer a day in court rather than bureaucratic communications.

“I wish somebody would lay a charge against me,” he says. “Please, somebody take me to court. If a judge says I’m doing something wrong, I’ll close.”

Perry says the real losers in this conflict are the porn theatregoers.

He owns seven other sex shops in the Lower Mainland.