The display of T-shirts the city of Orange Beach deems obscene is restricted under a new ordinance and officials are asking about six stores to provide an area where adult-themed clothing can be stocked without being displayed to all customers.
"We are not telling people that they can't sell T-shirts, but we are asking stores that sell T-shirts that 90 percent of people would consider obscene to put a sign up that says 'Adult themed materials inside,'" Mayor Tony Kennon said Wednesday.
Alvin's Island is one of the stores affected. Dror Levy, a vice president of the parent corporation, expressed concern over the wider implications of the ordinance.
"They come into your business and tell you what to do. I think there is a line crossed here. The last thing we want is this kind of ordinance."
The Miami-based company owns 35 retail stores and employs 500 people throughout the Florida Panhandle and northern Gulf Coast.
Orange Beach is the only municipality with an ordinance that dictates display policies within an Alvin's Island store. According to Levy, he spoke with officials in Gulf Shores who expressed their specific concerns. Levy said he ordered some items removed from the shelves.
"We acted immediately. We did even more than they asked. There was no debate. It is a just a few things out of thousands that we sell," Levy said.
He said he never heard from the mayor about the issue.
"All I have heard from him is a lot of noise in the papers. He makes it like a war. We've had calls from people there that were not appropriate. We are business people. The same as anyone else, we pay taxes."
According to Kennon, "This is to protect our brand. The shirts have our (Orange Beach) name on them and visitors wear them all over the country. That has the potential to undermine our long-standing efforts to promote Orange Beach as a family-friendly vacation place."
Kennon explained that the city council, the mayor and the city attorney will confer to decide if a particular design is obscene. He acknowledged that once a garment is purchased, wearing it on the streets will be up to the purchaser.
"There is a thin line that we were trying to observe that preserves our First Amendment rights while setting standards for our community that 90 percent of people support," he said. "The U.S. Supreme Court gives communities the right to set their own standards."
The Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau promotes the region. On Tuesday the tourist agency issued a general resolution that "supports Gulf Shores and Orange Beach as they strive to maintain the AlabamaGulf Coast as a family oriented destination."