If not for cardboard blocking off the public’s view into the store, Cindie’s – a popular lingerie store – almost looks ready for its Missouri City debut.
In fact, it was, according to Greg Gant, the company’s director of operations, just before the city of Missouri City denied Cindie’s its certificate of occupancy.
Now, after pouring between $400,000 and $500,000 on the business’ location at 6302 State Highway 6, Gant is stuck waiting on an appeal with the city and is disputing city administrators about the definition of a sexually-oriented business, he said.
“Never, in 27 years in business and 32 stores later, have I ever had to deal with anything like this,” Gant said. “We’ve had pushback here and there, but we’ve always had meetings and come to an agreement.”
Missouri City, for its part, declined to comment on the ongoing dispute, arguing it would be improper to do so before hearing Gant’s appeal.
“As the matter is currently pending before the city’s zoning board of adjustments and appeals, the city has no comment at this time,” said Rachelle Dickerson, a spokesperson for the city.
Essentially, Gant held talks in the summer of 2021 with previous city administrators about bringing Cindie’s to Missouri City and received assurance the store could come, he said.
“I explained ourselves, that we are a retail lingerie boutique and that we do sell adult products,” Gant said. “But as the city’s ordinances were written, we don’t fall into the definition of sexually-oriented business because of our product mix.”
But those conversations came before a new administration took over.
Fast forward to December, and Gant learned the city was rejecting his business’ certificate of occupancy because city inspectors deemed it a sexually-oriented business, he said.
If that categorization doesn’t change, Gant would need the city council to rezone the area in order to open Cindie’s, he said. As it stands, the strip center is zoned for general retail, which he thought his business was, he said.
Gant has tried speaking with city administrators to determine what he could do to reach compliance, and even offered to pull all sex toys from his shelves so that he could open the store while the case goes through the appeals process, he said.
But the city has so far refused to let him open, or even offered a firm definition of what a sexually-oriented business is, he said.
“I keep asking them what a significant or substantial part of our inventory means,” Gant said. “They will not give me a definition so that I can comply. They’ve given me a denial without a reason.”
The city’s handling of the matter has become something of a talking point on social media, where residents have pointed out the difference between the city refusing to let Cindie’s open versus its explanation that it couldn’t interfere with a planned gas station project elsewhere in the city.
“It is a little late in the game for Missouri City not to allow this business to open,” one resident wrote. “This is a lawsuit I do not think we will win, and it sends a bad message for companies wanting to do business here.”