Pink Pony's case against Brookhaven dismissed by Georgia Supreme Court; city can ban adult businesses that sell booze

What happens to the legendary Buford Highway strip club now?


The Georgia Supreme Court today delivered bad news to the Pink Pony and countless wide-eyed conventioneers today by siding with a lower court in the strip club's legal battle against Brookhaven.

The state's high court unanimously upheld a DeKalb County's court decision to dismiss the Pink Pony's lawsuit against the city, thereby giving Brookhaven the right to ban adult businesses that sell alcohol.

Shortly after incorporating in December 2012, Brookhaven proposed an ordinance that sought to ban adult businesses that sell alcohol inside its city limits. Brookhaven officials called in the expertise of a Tennessee lawyer who's built his career crafting ordinances to help such cities in their quest.

Several months later, the Pink Pony, which has operated along Buford Highway for more than 22 years, and its owner Trop Inc., fought back with a lawsuit. They claimed the new ordinance was unconstitutional, and launched a PR campaign and even asked the city to de-annex them.

The club's lawyers argued that Brookhaven's ordinance conflicted with a deal the Pink Pony and other nearby strip clubs inked with DeKalb County officials first struck in 2001 and amended six years later. In exchange for the right to keep showing skin and serving alcohol, adult entertainment businesses serving booze would pay $100,000 per year. The figure would increase each year. That deal, the club argued, exempted it from Brookhaven's ordinance.

The DeKalb trial court ruled in Brookhaven's favor, calling the strip club's deal with DeKalb illegal and the new city's ordinance constitutional. In addition, the ruling said that the Pink Pony lacked any right to challenge the city's alcohol code regulations. The Pink Pony appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, arguing that the trial court made errors.

That brings us today. The justices rejected the club's arguments and said that Brookhaven's ordinance did not infringe on free speech.

“First, it furthers the important government interests of ‘attempting to preserve the quality of urban life,’ and ‘reducing criminal activity and preventing the deterioration of neighborhoods,” the opinion says, according to an opinion summary issued by the court. “These goals, in turn, are not related to any desire to suppress speech... Any incidental restriction of speech caused by the ordinance is no greater than essential to further these important governmental interests.”

But the Pink Pony's fight is not over. Alan Begner, the strip club's attorney, tells CL that he will ask the court to reconsider. He's got 10 days to do so. A request for comment to a Pink Pony executive was not immediately returned. A Brookhaven spokesman said the city is preparing a statement.

UPDATE, 3:21 p.m.: Brookhaven spokesman Michael Lee passes along the following from the city:

“Today, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed that the City of Brookhaven is not bound by Pink Pony’s agreement with DeKalb County, and that Brookhaven’s sexually oriented business ordinance is constitutional as a matter of law. The City will continue to defend all of its ordinances. The Council’s adoption of legally-valid regulations - like those in place in DeKalb County and in cities across Georgia - has never been about one business, but about having sound ordinances that protect the long-term interests of the City and its residents.”

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