Friday, August 13, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Peep shows exposed

The adult video parlors must
open up areas where the
films are viewed

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The doors are about to come off at Mel's Videocade.

A new ordinance that police will begin enforcing Oct. 1 requires adult video parlors like Mel's to remove the doors, curtains or other enclosures of the booths where the movies are played.

The law also forbids more than one person occupying a booth at one time and requires that peep show parlors be licensed.

Police say the parlors, particularly in Chinatown, have turned into dens of drug and prostitution activities.

Streetlight video cameras, coupled with more vigorous policies against drug trafficking and use on Chinatown's sidewalks, have driven the illicit activities indoors, police say.

Melio Pinzari, who opened Mel's on Hotel Street 13 years ago and has owned other adult businesses since the 1940s, makes no apologies for being in the sex business but says he does not condone drug use in his establishment.

Pinzari, a stocky but sturdy 82-year-old, points proudly to the wall behind his cash register, where hangs a list of about two dozen people who have been banned from Mel's.

"I'm in the sex business. I'm not in the dope business," he said.

Police Maj. Henry Lau says Mel's has become one of the prime places for drug dealers and users to hide and do their business.

Pinzari said that's not his fault.

He blames the drugs for scaring off much of his legitimate business. In the past, he said, he would get a lot of elderly retirees who would "come in, relax, sit down, smoke, have a soda and fantasize or whatever."

Now the new law threatens to take away even more business, Pinzari said. Where similar laws have been applied against adult video parlors on the mainland, businesses have lost as much as 75 percent, he said.

"As far as I'm concerned, when the doors come down, I'm out of business," he said.

Mel's was raided last week based on suspected drug activity in the establishment.

Pinzari said he didn't know that any of the dozen or so people arrested were carrying drugs or drug paraphernalia.

"If we had, I would have kicked them out," he said. Pinzari doesn't blame police, however. "They're just doing their job."

Lau said his officers on the community-policing team have been going to video parlors notifying them that enforcement of the law, which actually was approved last year, will begin.

Parlor owners will need to get a permit for $100 that can be renewed annually. They will also need to promise to abide by the new regulations.

While there are a handful of peep show businesses in Chinatown, there are also pockets of them in the Kapiolani district, Waipahu, Wahiawa and elsewhere.

Mel's is a traditional peep-show parlor where customers get 90 seconds of video for every quarter or token they drop into a slot. Others, like Suzie's Adult Superstores in Aiea, charge customers a flat $10 to watch an entire movie.

Aaxtion Video on Kapiolani and Nimitz Video Emporium in Iwilei have both types.

Employees at most of the establishments acknowledged that they know of the crackdown but refused to comment.

The owner of one Kapiolani video parlor, who asked not to be identified, said it's unfair that her business is being penalized when criminal infractions are occurring in the hostess bars around her.

"Ron" of Aquarius Video in Wahiawa said he got out of the peep-show business years ago.

Most people with an inclination for adult movies now have the option of renting or purchasing videos and watching them in the privacy of their homes.

He predicted that most, if not all, peep-show businesses will shut down in a few years."That's what happened to the adult theaters a long time ago," he said.

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