IRVINE, Calif. — Longtime sex shop Pink Kitty will be scheduled to close its doors Saturday after a protracted dispute with the city of Irvine over its business license.
“I did everything they asked me to,” said Alysia Batchelder, 51.
Batchelder took over the 40-year-old business 15 years ago, she said, renewing the license with no problem.
But in 2020 the city started issuing $3,000 a day fines to Batchelder, she said. She has a stack of 20 in her office that she’s holding off paying on the advice of her lawyer.
“That’s only about a third of them,” she said.
Officials on the planning commission told Batchelder she violated several rules.
Now Batchelder and her three employees will be out of a job.
“I’m a single mother. I’ve got one kid in college, another who’s going to go in a year, and I’m about to lose my income,” she said.
Batchelder also serves as a guest speaker at half a dozen local colleges, including Irvine Valley College and California State University, Fullerton.
The city declined interview requests to the planning commission but issued the following statement:
“This is a Sexually Oriented Business (SOB) based on the merchandise they sell and the classes they offer. It is not a ‘sudden zoning violation issue,’ but rather an issue the City has been working to address with the property owner for years. This business is located in a zoning designation that does not permit Sexually Oriented Businesses,” the statement said.
However, Batchelder said Pink Kitty no longer provides sexual education classes, which she said was one condition she had to meet to keep her license.
A major sticking point has been her merchandise. About 85% of her sales are sex toys or other items categorizing her store as “sexually oriented business” along with strip clubs, sex clubs and dungeons. The rest of her sales are lingerie, which she said won’t ever be enough to support the business because of competition from national and international brands.
“If people wanted to buy this stuff online, I’d be out of business,” she said. “The fact that we exist is proof that people feel safer coming to us.”
Councilwoman Tammy Kim heard about the impending closure Friday, July 22. In an interview with Spectrum News 1, she said the Pink Kitty business license was discussed in closed session before she was elected. Now, she wants to help sort out the confusion.
“I feel that as an employer, as a business that has been here [and] that’s contributing, I absolutely support the business staying, and I support working with her,” Kim said.
Batchelder feels her options have been exhausted but is hoping for a last-ditch effort from Kim.
“Quite honestly I would feel way better for my residents to go to Pink Kitty rather than some sketchy place in Santa Ana or Costa Mesa,” Kim said. “Our residents are in the safety and security of Irvine [with Pink Kitty].”