Ramsey buys adult bookstore property, will demolish building

A little over 23 years after it opened, the very visible adult book store off Highway 10 in Ramsey has closed and will soon be demolished.

Ramsey public works employees Mike Berge and Taylor Moshier (foreground) take down the large red “XXX” sign that was on the former adult bookstore property that the Ramsey Housing and Redevelopment Authority purchased June 27. The city had a crew out the next day to remove the signs. The building will be demolished within the next 30 days and the city will market the 1.23-acre property, Ramsey City Administrator Kurt Ulrich said. Photo by Eric Hagen

Ramsey public works employees Mike Berge and Taylor Moshier (foreground) take down the large red “XXX” sign that was on the former adult bookstore property that the Ramsey Housing and Redevelopment Authority purchased June 27. The city had a crew out the next day to remove the signs. The building will be demolished within the next 30 days and the city will market the 1.23-acre property, Ramsey City Administrator Kurt Ulrich said. Photo by Eric Hagen

The Ramsey Housing and Redevelopment Authority and former bookstore owner Arnold Holmberg closed on the $361,100 property sale June 27, according to Ramsey City Administrator Kurt Ulrich.

Those driving by the site at 6710 Highway 10 NW will notice the large red “XXX” and “Adult Book Store” signs are down. Ulrich said the green building will be demolished within the next 30 days.

“By its appearance, it looked like it was ready to come down at any time,” said Wayne Pratt, whose lives near the closed adult bookstore.

Pratt’s family moved to Ramsey 15 to 16 years ago not long after their first child was born. They now have three children ages 10 to 17. It has been difficult to explain this store to their children when they have asked about it, Pratt said.

“We’ve been praying for its closure,” he said.

What happens to the site after building demolition has yet to be determined, but Ulrich said the city will market it for redevelopment along the busy Highway 10 corridor. The city was able to buy the property with funds from the Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

At the time of closing, $60,192.25 in deferred property tax payments, including interest and penalties, was paid. Another payment of $15,488.79 had been made March 26, according to county property tax department records, but only one payment of a little over $8,000 was made in 2012. Multiple payments were made in 2011.

Ulrich said this was an important purchase because Highway 10 is “the front door of the city of Ramsey.”

One of the nearby businesses is Slumberland Furniture. Adam Trisko recently became the store manager and said the adult bookstore was an eyesore and he is glad the site will be cleaned up.

Michael Rowiette could walk down his driveway and see the backside of the green building. He almost chose to not move to this Ramsey house two months ago because of this, but he liked the home and area enough to make the purchase.

“They didn’t have to broadcast it,” Rowiette said with regards to the large red signs that came down June 27. “It’s not the boonies anymore.”

Holmberg could not be reached for comment before this edition went to press.

The adult bookstore has been a source of frustration for the city since it opened in April 1990 and the city actually took then-business owner Larry Holmberg to court, but what was then called The Amusement Center remained open because cities cannot completely shut out adult entertainment businesses. The business name later changed to Da Bookstore.

According to previous stories from 1990 and 1991 in the Anoka County Union, the city hired David Licht of the Northwest Associated Consultant Company to look into whether the city could close this business.

Licht cited state and national studies, including a 1989 report from the Minnesota Attorney General on the regulation of sexually-orientated businesses, to show that cities have to set aside some areas for these establishments.

When several residents asked if the city could buy the bookstore and thus avoid legal fees, City Attorney Bill Goodrich was quoted in an Oct. 12, 1990 Union story as saying, “If the council purchases the non-conforming use, he (Larry Holmberg) can take the money to establish a new use in a permitted district.”

An example given was how the city of St. Paul in 1989 paid the Faust Theater owner $1 million to abandon his adult use business. The owner used this money to open Deja Vu in Minneapolis.

The Amusement Center, Inc. adult bookstore opened April 19, 1990 on the property that formerly had Chips on 10 and Larry’s Pizza and Teen Center. Garry Holmberg had applied for the amusement center license and one was granted in March 1990, although the exact date did not appear on the approved license. His brother, Larry Holmberg, applied for a building permit for internal remodeling April 2, 1990 and Building Inspector Glyn Huff issued the permit the next day. Ownership was later transferred to Larry Holmberg.

The Ramsey City Council held an emergency meeting April 23, 1990 and passed a 180-day moratorium on adult use businesses.

The store briefly closed because of Larry Holmberg’s concerns about prosecution for allegedly violating the ordinance, but it re-opened May 11, 1990 after his attorney filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the city that U.S. District Court Judge Diana Murphy granted.

The ordinance was subsequently amended May 22, 1990 to state that adult entertainment businesses could not be located next to a licensed day care center, a bowling alley or a church, which were all nearby.

Larry Holmberg taped conversations he had with then-City Administrator Dave Hartley, then-Ramsey Police Chief Mike Auspos and another police officer. The message conveyed was that The Amusement Center had opened prior to the ordinance going into effect.

Holmberg’s attorney Randall Tigue said the city was trying to sue his client retroactively.

Hartley told Larry Holmberg in the phone conversation that the first time he heard of an adult bookstore was when the then-Union Editor Jim Yelle called April 18, 1990 to see if he knew anything about the rumors.

An inspector visited the site and did not see any evidence of this business being established. Two days later, the signs on the building appeared. Hartley told Holmberg that nearly 300 people had called city offices that week.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

  • Maria

    We all wanted this store removed, but the way the City did this was not only stupid but irresponsible and a waste of tax payers money. The building is in disrepair and the City could have sent in building inspectors and I’m sure they could have close it due to code violations.

    Not only that this business was failing and was behind in paying taxes so within a years time the County would have taken this property over due to back taxes. So we gave this owner $361,100 and we are on the hook for the price of demolition and we are again in the land development business. After our Mayor Sarah Strommen, Council Members Chris Riley, John Letourneau, and Mark Kuzma all just elected they campaigned that they wanted to get the City out of the land development business and here we are wasting taxpayers dollars buying more property that time would have taken care of by itself.

    • jdizzle

      That’s government for you.

  • Richard J.

    American civil liberties are much more important than a fathers inability to explain to his children & teenagers what “XXX” means. What is the big deal about sex? It’s simple.
    It is really unbelievable that some parents have to “protect” their off-spring from human sexuality situations.
    People are born for the reason of reproduction. The 2nd strongest instinct known to man is the urge to reproduce. Be open & honest about human sexuality to your children. Children learn about sex on their own throughout their elementary-school years. Be there to help them learn.
    I have done dozens of “Lifetalk” with local teens, and the parents who are open & honest about sex-talk with their children at a young age, are rewarded with them living a productive life with a loving family of their own.
    Yes, I am a Ramsey resident 24-years, and I have had my 5yo daughter who ask me what “XXX” is as we drove by the business. I told her that is where adults go to buy books & movies. It wasn’t the end-of-the-world.

  • Marisa

    I lived in Ramsey during the time the “bookstore” opened and had it’s initial controversy. I had small children at the time and we drove past it on a daily basis. They never once asked what it was so that was never an issue. I did hear all kinds of (rumors?) of what was going on inside the tacky building. It was mostly an embarrassment to the city, in my opinion. I’m glad to see it go!

    • Wayne Buchholz

      I agree with you that it is no longer there, I am just mad as hell that the City wasted our tax dollars on something that would have taken care of itself and cost us nothing.

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