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Adult shop, forced to close Downtown, moves west

Posted at 9:11 PM, Feb 05, 2016

CINCINNATI -- A longtime adult gift store closed in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday after its owner was repeatedly caught selling isobutyl nitrate, also known as poppers, the city manager says.

And Gary Allgeier, owner of the Pink Pyramid, is already at work setting up shop in the city's Westwood neighborhood, where leaders say his business is unwelcome.

Sometimes sold as VCR cleaner or under other covert names, poppers are typically inhaled to induce relaxation prior to sex; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says use of poppers is associated with greater risk for HIV infection.

Cincinnati police found more than 600 bottles of poppers at the business in October 2014, City Manager Harry Black said in a memo late Friday.

That search came after an investigation going back to early 2013, Black said, when the Cincinnati Police Department got a tip the business was selling synthetic marijuana. According to Black, Allgeier admitted to an undercover officer he'd been selling synthetic marijuana but didn't have any in stock. Instead, Black said, Allgeier directed the officer to the hundreds of bottles of poppers he had in stock.

The undercover officer purchased poppers four times over the course of three months, Black wrote; Allgeier was arrested in May 2013 and charged with four counts of trafficking in harmful intoxicants.

As part of a deal with CPD because his co-owner and partner was sick, the department agreed to let Allgeier plead to misdemeanors instead of felonies -- and he agreed to stop selling poppers at the shop, Black wrote.

But then again, in late 2014, another undercover officer bought poppers in August and October. It was after those undercover buys that police got a search warrant and recovered the 600-plus bottles, along with more at his home -- including opened bottles of poppers, Black wrote.

Allgeier eventually pleaded guilty to abusing harmful intoxicants, according to court records and Black's memo.

He also agreed to close the store, in business 25 years, because the city was seeking to have it declared a public nuisance. Black said Allgeier was ordered to close the business for a year starting Feb. 1, 2016.

Allgeier said he had no comment on Black's memo.

'One of the Last Things We Would Like to See'

Allgeier was unpacking boxes Friday night in a storefront on Harrison Avenue, in the heart Westwood's business district. The shop won't sell anything pornographic or illegal, he and other workers said. Allgeier said he plans to stay less than a year, then move out of state.

"This is one of the last things we would like to see happen in the business district," said Mary Jenkins, president of the Westwood Civic Association.

Jenkins and Henry Frondorf, a Westwood Civic board member, both were concerned about Allgeier's new shop. What they've seen so far, they said, seems to suggest it won't be in line with what people in Westwood want for their business district. 

"It's really frustrating that we’ve done so much work to make this a better neighborhood, and people just ignore it and say, 'Oh I’m just going to open shop with a questionable store,'" Frondorf said.