Two days of hearings into alleged criminal activity at Forest Park adult entertainment centers begin this morning, with evidence expected to be presented against the Crazy Horse Saloon and the Pink Pony South.
The hearings were postponed from October to give attorneys for club owner Jack Galardi time to argue motions. Attorney Aubrey Villines, Jr., and Dwight Thomas want the hearing officer to recuse himself, and also want to suppress evidence.
The Forest Park City Council appointed former Municipal Court Judge Mike Martin to oversee the hearings. Villines argues that the arrangement is a conflict of interest.
City Attorney Robert Mack said the city will present videotaped evidence of alleged criminal activity. That evidence is purported to include public indecency, gambling, nudity or partial nudity, solicitation of sexual acts, prostitution, operation of an adult entertainment establishment without a license, or a permit, and illegal contact between patrons and employees.
But Crazy Horse Saloon General Manager David Rashmir dismissed the allegations.
“The real truth is that the Crazy Horse Saloon has been the victim of insidious police harassment, with a political agenda to put us out of business,” wrote Rashmir in a statement sent to the Clayton News Daily.
The clubs opened years ago as adult entertainment centers, commonly referred to as “strip clubs.” However, the status of both clubs changed in January after the Forest Park City Council passed a new city ordinance in March 2010.
City Manager John Parker said the clubs were given a choice on how they wanted to continue operating.
"The council voted at that time that you couldn’t have nudity and alcohol in the same room,” said Parker. “They can have an adult entertainment license, or an alcohol license, but not both. So, they picked alcohol license, and decided to serve food.”
The businesses and the City of Forest Park have clashed several times in the past few years. The clubs' challenge to the city ordinance was shot down last month by the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Court ruled the adult entertainment ordinance is constitutional.
Villines filed a temporary restraining order in October to stop the hearings. The order was denied by Clayton County Chief Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield.
Villines filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court, seeking an injunction against this week’s hearings, said Mack. “They’ve done everything they can to stop it from going forward,” he said.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pannell, Jr., denied the motion for an injunction.
The clubs got some public support Monday night from Forest Park resident, Carl Evans.
“Why are we singling these people out?” asked Evans, during the city council’s regular meeting. “I don’t understand it. We don’t have anything here to draw people here, not even a decent grocery store. I think we ought to rethink this.”
Depending on the outcome of the hearings, the licenses could be revoked, suspended, or unchanged. The losing party has the right to appeal to Clayton County Superior Court.
–– Staff writer Curt Yeomans contributed to this article.