Appeal of proposed Village clothing store is denied

by Steven Felschundneff |

An attempt to prevent a new Village clothing store from opening was rejected Monday when an appeal of The Rave Box’s business license was denied by the city. Barring a further appeal, the shop is scheduled to open at 1 p.m. Saturday.

A handful of local merchants filed the appeal citing concerns that the clothing store was an adult business and did not fit with the character of the Village. In addition, its location at 141 Harvard Ave., adjacent to a toy store and the public library, was cited as being too close to where children congregate.

The Rave Box offers a wide range of clothing and accessories, including bikinis and sheer outerwear, for fans of electronic dance music to wear at concerts and festivals. The owners maintain they do not operate an adult store, and are clothing merchants like others already operating in the Village.


A steady stream of supporters stopped by The Rave Box on Harvard Avenue on Monday to talk with owners Steve Morales and Janelle Huerta. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


The appellants cite city code which states employees and customers of adult businesses must be fully clothed, and prohibits “exposure of the human male or female genitals, pubic area or buttocks with less than a fully opaque coverage, the female breast with less than a fully opaque coverage over any part of the nipple or areola, and/or the covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.”

The appeal was denied by Assistant to the City Manager Katie Wand, who was acting as the hearing officer. However, the drama may not be over because for 10 days following Wand’s decision, it can be appealed to directly to the City Council.

On March 1, Jolene Gonzales of Bert & Rocky’s Cream Co., Yvette Duchardin-Hart of Bunny Gunnar, Janell Henry of Claremont Village Eatery, Elizabeth Carr of Studio C and Marodeen Ebrahimzadeh, of the Square I Gallery and Artist Trait Framing, filed the appeal under the allegation that it was an “adult business,” which is prohibited in the Village and that it did not “preserve and enhance” the character of the urban Village business district.

“After viewing the Instagram page for The Rave Box, the proposed adult-oriented clothing store who is subject of this appeal, it is part of the company culture to encourage employees to dress in sheer clothing, with their breasts and buttocks at varying levels of exposure. Sometimes body parts are covered by sheer fabric sometimes skirts are sheer but are also so short that their buttocks are fully exposed,” according to the appeal.

“I was not presented with any evidence suggesting that it is part of The Rave Box’s ‘company culture to encourage employees to dress in sheer clothing with their breasts and buttocks at varying levels of exposure’ as suggested by the appellant,” Wand said in denying the appeal. She also stated that even though some revealing outfits were available for sale, there was no evidence that people wore them in the store other than in private changing rooms.

According to her report, Wand was appalled by some comments from The Rave Box’s roughly 250,000 followers on social media, who have reportedly inundated the appellants with threats over the past week.

“I do not believe that the comments were justified or appropriate in any way,” Wand said. “And, although it may be somewhat disappointing that The Rave Box did not take a stand against these personal threats and hateful comments that defy their mantra of ‘peace, love, unity and respect,’ I do not believe their right to operate a clothing business can be denied on this basis.”

The owners of The Rave Box, Janelle Huerta, 33, and Steve Morales, 28, take exception to the label that the business is an adult store and accuse the people behind the appeal of discriminating against them because they are young Hispanics.

“We feel that we are being attacked for no reason,” Morales said. “We just had a baby at Christmas time and shut [their former Upland location] down on New Year’s, so we are going on three months with no income. And this is our business, so it’s really not only affecting our customers, it’s affecting us in our personal life.”

The Rave Box had been operating out of a storefront in Upland until a flood forced them to relocate to a temporary space which proved to be problematic due, ironically, to problems associated with adult stores in the same shopping complex.

“We are absolutely not a sex shop nor do we sell any sex toys or post any sexual acts inside our shop. We are a normal business that sells clothing for people who attend music festivals and raves and concerts!” Huerta posted on social media.

Followers of The Rave Box were not the only ones making incendiary comments.

During public comment at the February 28 Claremont City Council meeting, two of the appellants citied some of the reasoning behind their opposition to The Rave Box.

“We have worked hard to make a family-safe and family-friendly environment in the Village,” Duchardin-Hart, owner of Bunny Gunner gallery said. She listed the many events held in the Village including Art Walk, Halloween and the farmers market and said those events represent community building.

“What is not community building is the element that The Rave Box caters to,” Duchardin-Hart said. “Claremont just arrested 16 people in a prostitution sting on January 30th on Indian Hill and the 10 Freeway. Now we want to offer a retail environment to clothe the prostitutes? If this is the case, why not invite their neighbors to open up stores in the Village? Their neighbors such as the adult store, the topless bar, the tattoo parlor. Where do we draw the line? The Rave Box hasn’t even opened up yet and have already they started talking ill toward the Claremont community. Claiming discrimination because they are Hispanic. Referring to some of the people on City Council as ‘Karens.’”

Julianna Robinson, a local college student who attends raves, disagreed.

“I just want to point out it’s not a store for adult business, it’s a store for people who go to raves which are big festivals [where people] express their identity and their happiness. It’s a place with community and a sense of value. And I appreciate the Claremont Council for giving this store an opportunity,” Robinson said.

Courier editor Mick Rhodes contributed to this report.


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