Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Signs Fill Walkway for and against Adult Book Store

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Signs Fill Walkway for and against Adult Book Store

Article excerpt

Byline: AMELIA A. HART, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

YULEE -- The public debate on pornography, censorship, community standards and free speech has entered its third week along the side of Nassau County's main thoroughfare.

Since Feb. 28, citizens concerned about the opening of Nassau County's first sexually oriented business, Adam & Eve, have been conducting "prayer walks" at the site of the store, in a new strip mall on Florida A1A. The demonstration is coordinated by an ad hoc group, Nassau Citizens for Family Values.

Shortly after they began, the picketers, who carry signs with sayings such as "Porn hurts the community," were joined by another group of concerned citizens. Waving their own signs with slogans including, "My bed, my business," the second group had turned out to protest the first protesters.

While the demonstrations have been peaceful, some business owners in the mall said they're not happy with the ongoing drama.

"We're stuck in the middle," said Gino Pescrilli, owner of Brothers Pizzeria, a fledgling pizza and sandwich shop at the mall's entrance.

Pescrilli, who lives in Willoughby, Ohio, but plans to move his family back to Nassau County, opened the restaurant in late January.

He said that business was good in February, but it'sdropped significantly since the demonstrations began, particularly during the dinner hour.

The picketing is usually from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Nassau Citizens for Family Values spokesperson Rick Young said. The number of anti-pornography demonstrators on hand is between seven and 35, he said.

Pescrilli said he thinks potential customers for his family restaurant are seeing the demonstrations and deciding it's easier to go elsewhere to get something to eat.

"It would be one thing if we'd been here four to five years; we could ride it out. But we're new, and the toughest time for a new business is the first year," he said.

Other business owners had mixed responses about whether the demonstrations were impacting them.

Jarrod Sullivan, owner of Nassau Golf Supply, which also opened in January, said he hadn't been in business in the mall long enough to know what normal store traffic is. He said he couldn't tell whether it has been affected by the protests.

"Nobody's reflected to me that it's deterring them from coming," Sullivan said.

J.J. La Fear just launched her new business, A Caribbean Tan and Spa, and shares Pescrilli's concern that some customers might be shying away from the mall because of the protests out front.

"Would you come and shop with all that going on?" La Fear said. "I don't think it's fair to us. We're all new businesses here."

Some of the owners called the Nassau County Sheriff's Office last week when picketers moved to a public sidewalk in front of the stores. …

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