ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) - Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon thought the city council was going to easily pass an ordinance Tuesday that would have forced souvenir shops to hide some of its items. But it didn't happen that way. One council member said she wasn't ready to vote on the plan.
State law requires that city councils present an item twice before voting, unless the council agrees unanimously to suspend the second reading. Orange Beach council member Joni Blalock announced that she would not be voting Tuesday, because she said this ordinance, in particular, needs more public discussion.
The proposed ordinance would essentially force stores, specifically souvenir shops, to hide graphic T-shirts and other merchandise that Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said are vulgar. He wants it to be illegal to not only display the items, but to sell them to minors as well.
Mayor Kennon said he will try to pass the ordinance again next week and is not concerned about the impact it could have on stores.
"As far as the shops that sell them I could care less what it does to them, personally I'm offended they had the nerve to put it out there in the first place. They show no respect for our community I just assume they pack up their bags and head out of town," said Mayor Kennon.
At least one shop owner wants to know who will define what is and is not vulgar.
"Don't display black T-shirts. That's very easy when you say vulgar - that's a very subjective thing and what may be vulgar to you may be acceptable to me, and so on," said Shaul Zislin," said co-owner of Surf-Style souvenir shops.
Zislin is part owner of the Surf-Style chain of souvenir shops. He said they have been good business partners with the city for more than 20 years and don't want to see emotional decisions cloud the issue.
"I don't know a single place that has a morality police that is happy, successful, and prosperous," said Zislin.
Mayor Kennon said even if the ordinance is passed, he knows the items he wants hidden from view in stores, will eventually be seen on the streets.
"Well, I hope everybody says shame on you as they walk by them, number one. But I don't think there is anything legally we can do, but I think there is some genre of T-shirts that have to do with sexual acts that are illegal in public," said Mayor Kennon.
Some city officials are looking into other laws that would restrict what souvenir shops can sell and they could be presenting more proposals for other laws in the future.
The mayor said Orange Beach has spent millions on its brand, which he compared to household brand names like Coca-Cola, and he wants it protected.
If the ordinance passes, code enforcement officers will be checking on compliance and issuing citations, according to Kennon.
He said business owners that are cited would have to present their case before the city council and repeat violators could potentially face losing a business license all together.
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