Adult Businesses Prepare to Challenge Georgia Law

Matt O'Conner
SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Less than three weeks after Sandy Springs became Georgia’s newest city, the City Council has drafted a law placing strict restrictions on adult entertainment business.

If passed, the new law will limit hours of operation for adult businesses, including several area strip clubs and video stores, from 8 a.m. to midnight. The proposed ordinance also would bar adult businesses from locating within 500 feet of a residence, church, school or government building, playground or other adult establishment.

Video businesses will be subject to the law if as little as five percent of their inventory is adult oriented. Most video stores in Georgia are considered sex shops only if at least 25 percent of their inventory is adult. The law would effect at least half a dozen existing businesses.

Area adult business owners say they are prepared to challenge the law, starting with a public hearing scheduled for Dec. 27. Many already have put lawyers to work to study case law and develop possible worst-case-scenario strategies.

“We'll be there [at the hearing]," said Alan Begner, an attorney who represents several adult businesses. “They're clearly trying to get rid of adult businesses. If it passes, we'll appeal.”

Begner added that the existing businesses should be grandfathered in — in essence, exempted from the law — saying that it would be unfair to change the rules after a business is already operating.

“The city is coming after five or six of the key players at once, and they're not just going to walk away from their income," said John Cornetta, owner of adult video store Love Shack.

Cornetta warns that the newly incorporated city may be setting itself up for a long and expensive legal battle — one which he is certain the city will lose.

“At best for Sandy Springs, I think it'll be a five-year fight,” he said. “At worst, it'll be a 10-year fight or a quick loss. I'm not sweating it at all.”

But Mayor Eva Galambos said Sandy Springs’ homeowners and business owners have expressed their support for the ordinance and, as far as she’s concerned, adult businesses don’t have a place in the young city.

“They [adult businesses] don't fit what the business community is trying to do,” Galambos said. “They [city planners] say it's difficult to attract higher-quality retail in Sandy Springs when they have this situation to deal with.”

However, area business owners seem to disagree.

“The guys who go in [to the Love Shack] don't want any trouble,” said James Johnson, manager of a dollar store located next to the Love Shack. “I was afraid there would be prostitutes and people hanging out bothering my customers, but it hasn't been like that.”

“I think there's other things the City Council should be worried about,” added Robert Feifer, manager of a nearby children's furniture store.