IRVINE, Calif. – Longtime sex shop Pink Kitty is scheduled to close its doors Saturday after a prolonged dispute with the city of Irvine over its business license.
“I did everything they asked me to do,” said Alysia Batchelder, 51.
Batchelder took over the 40-year-old business 15 years ago, she said, renewing the license without a hitch.
But in 2020 the city began issuing $3,000 a day in fines to Batchelder, she said. She has a stack of 20 in her office that she doesn’t pay on the advice of her attorney.
“That’s only about a third of them,” she said.
Officials at the planning commission told Batchelder she violated several rules.
Now Batchelder and her three employees will be out of a job.
“I am a single mother. I have a kid in college, another one going in a year, and I’m about to lose my income,” she said.
Batchelder also serves as a guest speaker at half a dozen local colleges, including Irvine Valley College and California State University, Fullerton.
The city declined interview requests at the planning commission, but released the following statement:
“This is a sexually oriented business (SOB) based on the merchandise they sell and the classes they offer. It is not a ‘sudden zoning violation issue’, but rather one that the City has been working to address with the property owner for years. This business is located in a zoning designation that does not allow sexually oriented businesses,” the statement said.
However, Batchelder said Pink Kitty no longer offers sex education classes, which she said was a condition she had to meet to keep her license.
A major sticking point has been its commodity. About 85% of her sales are sex toys or other items that categorize her store as a “sexually oriented business” along with strip clubs, sex clubs and dungeons. The rest of her sales are domestic, which she said will never be enough to sustain the business because of competition from national and international brands.
“If people wanted to buy this stuff online, I’d be out of business,” she said. “The fact that we exist is proof that people feel safer coming to us.”
Councilwoman Tammy Kim heard about the impending closure on Friday, July 22. In an interview with Spectrum News 1, she said the Pink Kitty business license was discussed in closed session before it was decided. Now, she wants to help clear up the confusion.
“I feel this as an employer, as a business that has been here [and] this is contributing, I absolutely support the attitude of the business and I support working with it,” said Kim.
Batchelder thinks her options have been exhausted, but is hoping for a last-ditch effort from Kim.
“Honestly, I would feel a lot better about my residents going to Pink Kitty than some sketchy place in Santa Ana or Costa Mesa,” Kim said. “Our residents are in the safety and security of Irvine [with Pink Kitty].”
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