Sunday, March 01, 2009

From Sporting Goods To ... Sport

A frustrated businessman in trendy downtown Alexandria, VA, Michael Zarlenga, got so fed up with government regulations that he rented his store to a hoochy-koochy dealer.

Now the City Fathers are up in arms because after they rammed it up Zarlenga's smokestack, Zarlenga rented his property to a business that caters to people who perhaps like it that way.

To many in Old Town Alexandria, the sex shop that opened recently on King Street is nothing short of scandalous, a historical desecration just blocks from the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee.

But to Michael Zarlenga, it's justice.

Zarlenga spent $350,000 on plans to expand his hunting and fishing store, the Trophy Room. He worked with city officials for almost two years and thought he had their support -- until the architectural review board told him he couldn't alter the historic property.

Furious and out of money, Zarlenga rented the space to its newest occupant, Le Tache.

"I can't say I didn't know it would ruffle feathers," said Zarlenga, 41. "Actually, I was hoping for a fast-food chain because I thought that would be more annoying to the city."

Ruffled feather boas perhaps?

Le Tache is a bit racy, it is not a premise that I would frequent. But the idea of pissing off the government sits rather well with me. If I had just blown well over a quarter million just to have the City of Alexandria spit in my face, nasty window dressing would be the least of their problems.

In the windows of Le Tache, which means the spot, scantily dressed, voluptuous mannequins beckon. Peekaboo lingerie, adult movies and sex toys are displayed throughout the three-story building, which has the original hardwood floors and beams dating to the early 1800s.

The city cannot act because the store is complying with the law. "There's nothing I can do to encourage its demise," the mayor said.But he added that city staff is drawing up proposed changes to zoning laws in hopes that future adult entertainment stores can be regulated. Le Tache would be grandfathered in.

Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel said his office has received enough complaints about the store that he is looking at legal options. Virginia law allows for courts to declare sexual material obscene and to ban its sale, he said.

"What is acceptable in one community might not meet the standard in the neighboring community," Sengel said.

What is not acceptable in any community is the willful misconduct of public servants who lie to citizens and run them out of business. This whole thing sounds like someone was expecting a bribe that would have smoothed the entire approval process.

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