By Joel Hall
The Forest Park City Council adopted a new adult-entertainment ordinance on Monday, incorporating many of the same features of a March 2009 ordinance that prompted federal lawsuits from two different strip club owners.
The council voted 4-1 to adopt the ordinance, with Ward 4 Councilman Donald Judson opposed.
While its enforcement depends on whether a federal judge declares it constitutional, the new adult-entertainment ordinance would:
* Render all nudity an act of "public indecency," therefore making it illegal;
* Require that any dancing take place at least four feet away from any patron on a stage raised at least 18 inches from the floor;
* Require all areas of a club to be fully lighted, and;
* As of Jan. 1, 2011, ban the consumption or sale of alcohol in adult-entertainment establishments.
Forest Park City Attorney Joe Harris said Monday that the city's new ordinance is essentially identical to a revision the city attempted to adopt in December, which included national studies on the adverse secondary effects on communities in close proximity to adult-entertainment establishments.
The only difference, he said, is that the new ordinance includes an appeal process, in which operators challenging the decision of the city's police chief to cite or shut down an adult business can make an administrative appeal to the city manager.
"We were going to create a five-member board to deal with that ... they would do what the city manager now does ... hear evidence and make a decision," Harris said. "This [ordinance] replaces it [the five-member appeal board]. They can appeal that [the city manager's decision] to [Clayton County] Superior Court."
In April of last year, the city's adult ordinance prompted strip club magnate Jack Galardi, the owner of two clubs in Forest Park -- the Crazy Horse Saloon and Pink Pony South -- to sue the city for $70 million. Shortly thereafter, Terry Stephenson, the owner of Tops Showbar, an establishment that has attempted to locate in Forest Park, also sued the city for the right to open a business there.
The cases went before a federal judge in Atlanta, and in May 2009, the city agreed to delay enforcement of the new rules until a judge could determine their constitutionality.
"We're waiting on the judge to rule," Harris said. "Now that we have passed the new ordinance, we may be in a position to get a summary judgment."
In a public hearing on Monday, prior to the vote, several members of the community voiced opposition to the decision.
Carl Evans, a Forest Park resident and youth baseball coach, said that without the donations of businesses like the Crazy Horse Saloon, youth sports in the city would suffer.
"Crazy Horse [Saloon] has sponsored the team," Evans said. "It is so the parents don't have to spend the money, because the city doesn't help us anymore. It [the new ordinance] would seriously hurt us."
"I feel like the terms on which our license was granted should be granted in perpetuity," said David Rashmir, general manager of the Crazy Horse Saloon. "Before we moved next door, Mr. Galardi spent a fortune on these businesses on the premise it was legally viable. You can't give us these rights, allow us to spend millions of dollars, and renege ... it's egregious."
According to Harris, the city will not enforce the ordinance until the federal judge rules on its constitutionality.