A Forest Park compliance hearing officer has revoked the business and alcohol licenses held by two former strip clubs, as outlined in a blistering summation of his findings of facts released Monday.
Attorney Mike Martin presided over the November hearings during which Forest Park officials presented evidence against Pink Pony South, and Crazy Horse Saloon. Both establishments opened for business years ago as strip clubs, but opted in January to become bars that serve food, and prohibit nudity.
Martin’s findings indicate that he did not believe the testimony of club managers, who denied the city's accusations that the businesses continued to operate as strip clubs, in violation of local ordinances.
The bulk of the evidence used against the clubs came from their own surveillance cameras, which appeared to show flagrant and blatant violations of the city's code.
Dancers were depicted in lewd and sexually-explicit situations with customers, showing breasts and genitalia, and encouraging customers to pay for the privilege of going into a VIP room "where they could do more," according to testimony.
"These incidents took place both in the open areas of the premises and in the 'VIP Room' of the club, and were visible to anyone who was inside," stated Martin in the report. "Managers testified that they were constantly 'on the floor' to observe what was going on. It is impossible to believe that all of these acts could have taken place without actual knowledge of the management of the Licensee and without their consent, encouragement and approval."
Martin said the clubs' assertion that the incidents were isolated is contrary to the evidence.
"These were not isolated incidents that were dealt with by management when they were observed," Martin emphasized. "As stated above, these violations are not isolated, but rather exhibit a clear pattern of conduct to continue to operate as an adult entertainment establishment in clear violation of the ordinance of the City of Forest Park."
The revocations are effective immediately. Aubrey Villines, attorney for the clubs' owner, could not be reached for comment Monday night. The clubs have the right to appeal the decision to Clayton County Superior Court, where it will likely be heard by Chief Judge Deborah Benefield. Benefield has presided over several hearings between the city and the clubs.
Because the city has continued to prevail against the clubs, Benefield ordered, Monday, that the clubs' owner pay Forest Park $11,000 in attorneys fees, said City Attorney Robert Mack. Mack said the city may file to seek additional legal fees.
Forest Park City Manager John Parker said, Monday night, that officials are reviewing Martin's ruling. "At this point, we are reviewing the ruling, and of course, will be working with legal advice to continue the process," he said.
The clubs can continue to operate during the appeals process, said Mack. However, all four licenses will expire Dec. 31, which means the clubs' owner will have to apply for renewal for 2012. However, the city council voted, Monday night, to make the wording of the city ordinance dealing with the denial of licenses more specific, making renewal a moot issue.
"They will have to apply for new licenses for 2012," said City Attorney Joe Harris. "And having a license revoked [previously] is grounds for denying a new license."