street fights

The Bizarre Drama Over Clinton Hill’s New Sex Shop

Photo: Kayla Levy/Patch

Romantic Depot, a chain sex shop that opened in Clinton Hill on Valentine’s Day and advertises itself as “like a supermarket,” has become a source of local drama among people who do not agree that it is like a supermarket. (The storefront joins Bed-Stuy’s boob-and-butt van as the centerpiece of a sex-adjacent neighborhood fight.) Some residents say the shop is too close to nearby churches, mosques, and schools and want it shut down — or at least banished to a block away on Atlantic Avenue. Romantic Depot CEO Glenn Buzzetti has countered their concern with a Goop-like embrace of sex, telling protesters, “So it’s 2022 and sexual health and wellness is a part of our culture.”

But the pleasure of the story is in the details. Romantic Depot may sell adult sex toys and sexual-health products, but it doesn’t sell porn or host live performances, so it’s licensed as a retail establishment, not an adult shop. That means it doesn’t have to be located more than 500 feet from schools or places of worship and is, in fact, around the corner from a school and a mosque. (This isn’t a new fight.) At a police community council meeting, locals tried to argue that the store should be closed down because it is exploiting a zoning “loophole” on a technicality. But as Brooklyn Paper reported, the local business alliance emphasized that “there was nothing cops could do if the store is not actually doing anything illegal.”

Romantic Depot also incited a minor controversy after painting a mural of Notorious BIG on its wall — it read, “Spread love it’s the Brooklyn way” — which was soon painted over after it was widely criticized. (As someone wrote on Facebook, “I’m not mad at a sex shop but stop using Biggie’s phrase for literally any and everything. It’s real corny.”) Buzzetti told Amsterdam News that he didn’t know who painted over the mural; one of the protesters, Reverend Kevin McCall, claimed that Buzzetti had only a 30-day Getty license for the image, so Buzzetti “took it down the day before the time was up.”

Last month, a crowd of counter-protesters, who apparently love Romantic Depot, confronted a planned protest outside the shop. The group held signs in defense of the chain — reading “LGBTQ Supports Romantic Depot” and “Make Love Not War.” Then McCall pointed out that the protesters may have been paid protesters — not only misleading but uncool. Another local resident told Amsterdam News that the protesters for the shop were “from New Jersey.” (Some of Romantic Depot’s other locations had offered $25 gift cards to its customers attend the rally, writing on Facebook, “WE HAVE SOME EXTRA SIGNS, HOWEVER IF YOU CAN MAKE A SMALL SIGN IT WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED, IN CASE WE RUN OUT.”)

There may yet be peace: Buzzetti and McCall came to an agreement to talk it out. “We’d like to be good neighbors,” Buzzetti told Brooklyn Paper, while McCall said, “Even though it’s not required by law, he should’ve still just came to the community. He’s willing to talk, so let’s see how the future dialogue happens.”

Buzzetti said to Amsterdam News that “the communities we serve all become desensitized, in about 2-3 months, after we open.” And not everyone hates the shop. As one Clinton Avenue resident told Brooklyn Paper, “We want it. What’s wrong with being sexual. You don’t see nothing crazy outside, you don’t see no booty, you don’t see no nudity. So what’s wrong?”

The Bizarre Drama Over Clinton Hill’s New Sex Shop