By Joel Hall
The Forest Park City Council is scheduled to host a public hearing Monday, on a proposed revision of the city's controversial adult-entertainment ordinance. The City Council is then expected to vote on whether to accept the changes, which include the addition of a preamble listing examples of the "secondary effects" of adult establishments on various communities around the country.
In March of this year, Forest Park dramatically revised its existing adult-entertainment ordinance, adding new rules banning the tipping of adult dancers, mandating full lighting in all strip clubs, limiting any dancing to a platform raised at least 18 inches from the floor, and forbidding performers to dance within four feet of any patron.
The ordinance also included a provision to ban all alcohol sales within adult-entertainment establishments after Jan. 1, 2010.
The rules prompted strip club magnate Jack Galardi -- owner of two clubs in Forest Park, the Crazy Horse Saloon and Pink Pony South -- to sue the city for $70 million. In April, the case went before a federal judge in Atlanta, and in May, the city agreed to delay enforcement of the new rules until a judge could determine the constitutionality of the March ordinance.
While the ordinance that will be considered Monday is void of language forbidding the tipping of adult dancers, it includes most of the other amendments made in March, and several pages of examples of how "adult entertainment establishments escalate and exacerbate undesirable community conditions."
In the latest ordinance, case studies from various cities in Georgia, Texas, Washington state, Oklahoma, California, and Ohio are presented as evidence that adult establishments often "lend themselves to ancillary unlawful and unhealthy activities," such as "disorderly conduct, prostitution, solicitation, drug trafficking, drug use, assaults and batteries, and corruption of public officials."
The ordinance also asserts that "criminal activity, improper conduct, and other adverse secondary effects" have occurred in Forest Park over the last 10 years due to adult-entertainment activity.
Forest Park City Attorney Joe Harris said the new language has been added to the adult-entertainment ordinance to make it more defensible in court.
"We will adopt this ordinance at this place in time as a way to defend the lawsuit," Harris said. "We did that because Galardi attacked the findings in the March ordinance [saying] they weren't sufficient. We're just shoring up the record to cut off, at the pass, the idea that our findings were not sufficient ... it's not so much to settle the case.
"The basic position I gathered from the mayor and City Council is that they wanted to keep whatever they had in there as long as it was legally defensible," he added. "The reason the tipping thing was amended was because the lawyers we were working with had some reservations about it and we wanted to make the ordinance as strong as possible."
In July, the city called on the expertise of University of California at Irvine Social Ecology Professor Richard McCleary, Marietta-based private investigator Guy Watkins, and Dallas, Texas-based consultant Connie Cooper to strengthen the city's defense of its March ordinance. The preamble of the new ordinance is based on their findings, Harris said.
Galardi's attorney, Aubrey Villines, said the new ordinance fails to prove any adverse secondary effects to Forest Park caused by the Crazy Horse Saloon or Pink Pony South. He said he believes the latest revision is an admission that the March ordinance was unconstitutional, and said any failure of Forest Park to defend its arguments may open the city up to more adult-entertainment activity.
"They continue to deny what is going on in Forest Park and want to look at what is happening in other parts of the country," Villines said. "Why don't you just do a study on secondary effects in Forest Park? It would cost less money. They know that the results of the study would be that there are no secondary effects. This new ordinance, with the new preamble, it's just as unconstitutional as the one from the last time.
"They are playing Russian roulette with five bullets in the chamber," he continued. "[If the court rules against the ordinance], it would not be struck down on the basis of 18-inch platforms and lighting. It will be struck down on whether there is an adverse effect to the community. If that basis is found to be invalid, there is no law. That means Joe Blow or Jane Blow could come in and build a club [or] Mr. Galardi could come in and build five more clubs."
Harris said that after the passage of the new ordinance, the city will likely ask the federal judge to rule on its constitutionality.
"We want to get this thing to a resolution soon," Harris said. "After this ordinance is approved, we're probably going to file for summary judgment and get them [the federal court] to rule on the ordinance. We think it will be upheld. It is stronger and more defensible than the March ordinance."
On Monday, the city will also host a public hearing prior to establishing the architectural guidelines for the Forest Park Main Street Overlay District. The council is also expected to vote on an amendment which, if approved, would remove a section of city code requiring Clayton County residency to acquire a liquor license in the city. The city is not currently enforcing that ordinance, according to City Manager John Parker.
The meeting will be held at Forest Park City Hall, located at 745 Forest Parkway, at 7 p.m.