Forest Park prevails against adult clubs

The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Forest Park's adult entertainment ordinances as constitutional, and dismissed an appeal filed by the owner of the city's two adult clubs.

Attorney Aubrey Villines represents Jack Galardi, who owns Pink Pony South and Crazy Horse Saloon. Villines said Monday he has not seen the official decision yet, but will ask for reconsideration.

"If this is what the court has decided, we will be asking for a reconsideration, or we will appeal to the full bank of judges," said Villines.

Galardi and city leaders have butted heads over the operation of the clubs for several years. Galardi continues to challenge the city's ordinance, but has, so far, failed to convince the courts that Forest Park is wrong.

The U.S. District Court in Atlanta upheld the constitutionality of the ordinance earlier this year, with the exception of a regulatory fee sought by officials to offset increased costs to patrol the two clubs. Galardi appealed but was turned down, said City Manager John Parker.

"The District Court issued a ruling denying the clubs' motion for reconsideration, finding that the entire ordinance was constitutional," he said, "and dismissing the clubs' lawsuit in its entirety, with prejudice. The clubs appealed this decision as well. However, given the instructions from the Court of Appeals, the city expects this appeal to be dismissed as well."

The businesses opened as strip clubs but their potency has been diluted. The city revised its adult entertainment ordinance in March 2009, barring complete nudity, tipping, lap dances and alcohol sales. The following year, the city council issued a moratorium on permits to adult clubs until March 15, to give the city time to properly advertise proposed changes.

After taking public input, the city adopted a new ordinance with the tighter restrictions. Presented with the choice to offer nude dancing without alcohol, or to offer drinking without nudity, the clubs chose to serve food and alcohol.

But Forest Park officials allege that the clubs still provide nude dancing, and that dancers and customers engage in a litany of illegal activities.

City Council appointed a hearing officer last month to determine if the clubs should lose their alcohol or business licenses. There was discord again Thursday when officials convened in Forest Park for the hearing.

Hearing Officer Michael Martin, a former Forest Park City Court judge, postponed the proceedings so he could hear defense motions to suppress evidence, and to have Martin recused. He also acknowledged that the city's ordinance doesn't give him the authority to establish rules of evidence or rules of law. Villines said it is impossible for the clubs to get a fair hearing without the rules.

When the hearing re-convenes next month, Martin will hear evidence against the clubs in separate sessions because each holds its own license.

Parker said the city is looking out for the interests of its citizens, who are negatively affected by the allegations of criminal activity at the clubs.

"We are glad that the courts agreed that the city has a legitimate governmental interest in regulating adult entertainment clubs in the manner it has," he said, "to limit the negative effects of such clubs as much as possible through our ordinance."

–– Staff writer Curt Yeomans contributed to this report.