The first sex robot brothel in the United States has been blocked by officials in Texas.
Toronto-based KinkySdollS had planned to open a Houston location , where customers could both buy “adult love dolls” and rent them for use in private rooms.
The lifelike sexbots – priced from $2,500 (£1,900) each – react to touch and have vocal responses, while more expensive versions with AI can engage in conversations.
At the firm’s flagship store in Toronto, Canada, customers can pay £17 for 30 minutes of “intense pleasure”, £70 for an hour or £120 for a two-hour session.
But Houston City Council altered a local ordinance to block the business and any others like it from opening.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters after a council meeting that the vote amounted to a modification of an existing city ordinance and was not targeted at any specific business.
“You cannot engage in sexual activities with any inanimate objects at the business,” Turner said in explaining the change.
People will still be able to buy the dolls, he said.
KinkySdollS founder, Yuval Gavriel, said he is talking to lawyers about suing the city over its decision.
“We are investigating our options,” he said in a telephone interview.
Last month, Gavriel said he plans to open 10 sex robot stores in the US by 2020.
He told the Washington Examiner he’s targeting the American market because there’s no regulation.
He added: “The States is a bigger market, and a healthier market, and God bless Trump.”
Kinky S Dolls bills itself as the first “adult love dolls rent before you buy service” in North America.
Its website reads: “We offer unique service to those who looking for companion. Our Love Dolls goal is to provide intense pleasure.
“We provide deep and satisfying experience both in the way we feel and move.
“We will allow you to fulfill all your fantasies without any limitations. We feel just like the real thing.
“We always fresh for you we get sanitized with Antibacterial Products after every session. We would love for you to come and give us a try.”
But groups fighting sex trafficking in the US fear the store’s opening will hurt their efforts.
Micah Gamboa, of Elijah Rising, whose mission is to end sex trafficking “through prayer, awareness, intervention, and restoration”, ABC 13: “Our biggest concern is that this sex brothel with robots is gonna train men to become rapists.
“What’s next? Is it child robots? Where’s the line? Where is the boundary?”
More than 5,800 people have signed the group’s petition calling for sex robot brothels to be banned from Houston.
The petition reads: “As a nonprofit whose mission is to end sex trafficking we have seen the progression as sex buyers go from pornography to strip clubs to purchasing sex – robot brothels will ultimately harm men, their understanding of healthy sexuality, and increase the demand for the prostitution and sexual exploitation of women and children.”
Joe Madison, of the group Love People Not Pixels, which combats online pornography addiction, told ABC 13: “We’re talking about robots right now. It’s a hot button issue, but tomorrow it could be virtual reality or something else. It’s coming back to the demand of sex buying.”
Local residents were stunned when they found out about the plans.
One homeowner, Andrea Paul, said: “There are schools here and neighborhoods. To have something like that here is just gross.”
Despite their concerns, the store is perfectly legal.
It isn’t classed as a sexually-oriented business because it doesn’t meet the definition, meaning it should only require an occupancy permit to operate, the City of Houston has said.