Lawyer requests injunction to keep city from closing adult arcades

Jacksonville ready to shut down adult arcades after City Council decision

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On the day the city began the process of shutting down adult arcades across Jacksonville, one lawyer fought back. 

Kelly Mathis, who’s been involved in the arcade fight from the beginning, filed a motion Monday for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against a new law that went into effect Friday. 

Federal courts were closed for Columbus Day, so a judge has not ruled on the injunction request, but it could impact the city's efforts to shut down the arcades this week.

"First of all, it’s an emergency," Mathis said. "Under this ordinance, the game rooms have no right to protest. No due process right. It doesn’t say what games are covered  It does not define what is a simulated gambling device. It may be in a casino. It may be associated. Every sports event is associated with gambling. Are they now illegal?"

READ: Motion for emergency injunction

Jacksonville code enforcement and police officers began visiting game rooms around the city on Monday, issuing cease and desist orders and telling operators they have five days to remove simulated gambling devices that the city considers illegal gaming machines.

Lewis Viquez of Moncrief Amusements was among those visited by code enforcement inspectors Monday. He said he's hopeful the motion for an injunction will be granted.

"Hopefully it stops this," Viquez said.

Mathis is hoping for a hearing or ruling this week.

If the city gets its way, most of the game rooms will be closed by the weekend. City officials said late Monday afternoon that they were still compiling numbers of the locations targeted Monday by inspectors.

The shutdown effort followed a controversial vote from City Council that moved up the ban's start date. 

"You kind of get depressed thinking about it, like the holidays, bills. It's terrifying and depressing," Selena Fedd, the assistant manager of Spin City Arcade, told News4Jax over the weekend. 

The inspections will impact more than 2,700 workers and up to 160 adult arcades in the city. 

Two council members are scheduled to meet this week to talk about how to help workers, but employees say it's not enough. 

Employees are now scrambling to find jobs, which they said is a big worry just months before Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

"We buy birthday cakes, we buy funeral arrangements for spouses like we do a lot for these customers, they're everyday people. You know them by first name basis, kids, grandkids, vacations," said Fedd. 

Soon, her customers will be without a meeting spot, and she'll be without an income. 

"I support my mom and I also support my twin sisters. Their mother's deceased so I just gotta make way and make do. It's just terrifying. It's kind of inhuman, like how could y'all do that even though they promised us until February? Like, what was the emergency?" said Fedd. 

Council members who voted to move up the deadline argue the businesses are a public nuisance and that public safety is at risk. 

James Cushion, who's been coming to Spin City for years, says crime is everywhere. 

"Some people are gonna commit crime whether they like it or not. What I believe will happen once they shut the game rooms down, then they'll start robbing the stores, the service stations, they'll start robbing them in the future," said Cushion. 

Cushion, who's a disabled Vietnam veteran, said Spin City has served as a place of fellowship and friendship to him. 

"I'm not working trying to pay my bills or anything, I just have fun and enjoy meeting other veterans here too, that are disabled," said Cushion. "Senior citizens have places to go now that they didn't have before."

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