Georgia City Continues Debate on Adult Businesses

Matt O'Conner
SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — The newly incorporated city of Sandy Springs on Dec. 20 held the first of two public hearing to decide the fate of half a dozen adult-oriented businesses.

Last week, the Sandy Springs City Council drafted an ordinance that, if passed, would make it nearly impossible for adult video stores and dance clubs to operate within the city, business owners say.

The business owners and their lawyers showed up in force at the hearing, but spent most of their time trying to refute what they said were ridiculous allegations about the city's three strip clubs.

Private investigators from the Marietta security firm Business Consulting and Investigations, hired by the city, claimed that dancers had offered them “satisfaction guaranteed” dances in back rooms for $325.

They also handed council members a stack of studies that supposedly show crime rates rise in areas around adult businesses.

Alan Begner, a lawyer for one of the city’s strip clubs as well as several adult video stores, said claims made by paid security consultants should not be used to draft laws that could put his clients out of business.

“If it's true, arrest [the offenders] and revoke their license,” Begner said. “But don't punish everyone.”

Begner added that he frequently goes to the clubs and has never seen any of the activities mentioned by the investigators.

He also cited a 1997 study conducted by the county that showed areas around non-adult bars had far more crime than those around nude dancing establishments, including the three Sandy Springs strip clubs.

Begner said it was clear the ordinance is intended as a backdoor — and unconstitutional — means to shut down the city’s adult businesses. The courts have said that local governments can't ban adult businesses or zone them out of existence, but they can set rules under which they operate.

“We're not trying to put them out of business,” Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins said. “We just want them put in a place that's not affecting redevelopment of Roswell Road.”

The proposed ordinance forbids the sale of alcohol in adult businesses and restricts businesses from locating within 500 feet of a residence, church, school, other adult business or government office. The City Council will vote on the measure after a second hearing scheduled for Dec. 27. If passed, the ordinance will go into effect in January.