On Saturday night, Nov. 13, an inspector from Orlando's City Code Enforcement division paid a visit to several downtown vendors, removing material she said fell outside the parameters of their licenses and issuing a warning against the display and sale of adult-themed products.
"She came in and required all the adult material to be removed," says clerk Erin Searcy, who works at Cool World and adjacent Static, located respectively at 110 and 112 N. Orange Ave. Searcy describes Cool World as a hippy and alternative clothing shop and Static as a retro and rockabilly clothing and accessories store.
"We also sell birthday cards and such with adult-themed photos and content. We had to cover the photos with tape. The inspector told us that you had to have a specific license to sell such material in the downtown area and that only certain districts can get such licenses and that we weren't in one of those."
Searcy says that the inspector was accompanied by a non-uniformed male and the neighborhood's bicycle beat cop who saw the inspector's car and "just kind of strolled in to see what was going on.
"The inspector was friendly, at first, until I pointed out the owner was Dave Hemsley [a longtime downtown businessman]. Then she was very strict and abrupt and rude, assuming he knew the rule and would purposely break it. I tried to explain that we do everything by the book."
Elsewhere, at Art Attack, a piercing and tattoo venue at 49 N. Orange Ave., "The woman who was head of the whole operation and another buff guy with a badge on his hip came in speaking a language we don't understand: Spanish," says Bill Woody, a piercer and jewelry designer at the shop. "That was rude. Those two were real impolite, but Hernandez, the regular beat guy, also came in and was very, very nice, very, very pleasant. If it weren't for him, they would have given us a harder time than they did."
The shop displays its art, some of which features air-brushed fantasy women, on a wall 30 feet inside the door, out of view from the street. No piercing portfolios are openly displayed. The age limit -- 18 or older -- is strictly enforced. Still, says Woody, he was advised by the inspector that the official goal is a family-oriented downtown and that nothing that could possibly offend anyone was to be displayed. Read: those airbrushed fantasy women.
"Yeah, we were extremely upset that we had to take the art down, but she gave me an attitude, and the last thing you want is piss off the city or newspaper or anybody who can take the business from you and make you have a very, very bad day."
If Art Attack wants to display and sell the art, it must have a gallery license, Woody was told.
Mike Rhodes, the head of the city of Orlando's code enforcement office, did not respond to requests for an interview.