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Forest Park studies impact of adult entertainment

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The City of Forest Park will conduct a workshop in order to study the effects adult entertainment establishments have on nearby communities. The city has invited experts on the subject, and the public, to share their thoughts.

The meeting will take place Tuesday at 6 p.m., in the council chambers of Forest Park City Hall, located at 745 Forest Parkway.

Forest Park City Attorney Joe Harris said the meeting will help the city strengthen and clarify its current adult entertainment ordinance. "The government can't place restrictive rules on nude dancing, because it is protected by the First Amendment," Harris said. "They can, however, use police powers to limit the negative, secondary effects that can be caused by those types of businesses. The purpose of the meeting is for the city to receive evidence of secondary effects caused by nude dancing, nude dancing mixed with alcohol, things of that nature."

In March, the city of Forest Park passed an updated version of its 1993 adult entertainment ordinance that restricted many of the activities that often occur in strip clubs. Restrictions in the ordinance include: distance requirements between entertainers and patrons; a prohibition against direct tipping; a mandate that clubs be fullly lighted at all times, and that there be no dancing outside of the stage.

In April, in response to the ordinance, Jack Galardi, owner of both the Crazy Horse Saloon and Pink Pony South, in Forest Park, sued the city in Atlanta federal court.

In the same month, Terry Stephenson, owner of Tops Showbar, filed a request for a preliminary injunction in Atlanta federal court, in hopes of blocking the ordinance and opening an adult entertainment establishment next door to the Crazy Horse Saloon.

On May 6, a federal judge denied Stephenson's request for a preliminary injunction. On May 14, the city reached an agreement with Galardi, in which the city agreed not to enforce certain stipulations in the ordinance until a federal judge can verify that the stipulations are constitutional.

Aubrey Villines, an attorney representing Pink Pony South and the Crazy Horse Saloon, said he believes the city is "trying to stack the deck" with new evidence to defend its March 2009 adult entertainment ordinance. "We would like to resolve the issues between us," Villines said. "We just want the ordinance to be fair and reasonable. We truly believe what they are doing is going to backfire. Basically, they realized that they passed this ordinance without any input from the community ... they are trying to gather evidence to support what they have already done.

"There is an old Chinese proverb that says the fire you kindle for your enemy often burns yourself," he added. "We'll be ready. We think there will be lots of people from the community pleading on our behalf."

Harris said he believes the workshop will help the mayor and council craft a new ordinance that is easier to defend. "I'm not sure what the experts will say, but the general argument in other jurisdictions is that these things have negative affects on neighborhoods, and cause blighted conditions," he said.

"We've had two federal lawsuits filed against us trying to strike down our ordinance. We want to make sure its the strongest, most legally defensible ordinance that we can have, and I think it will be improved."

The City of Forest Park is encouraging public participation, but discouraging teens from attending the workshop, due to the subject matter. For more information, call (404) 366-4720.