By Collin Kelley
The Atlanta City Council has voted down legislation proposed by Councilman Alex Wan to close adult-oriented businesses along Cheshire Bridge Road. The vote was 9-6 against the measure.
Council members indicated they had concerns about whether the ordinance proposed by Wan would hold up to a legal challenge, the fairness of forcing a business to close down and where the businesses might relocate. If the council had approved the legislation, the seven businesses – including strip clubs and adult toy businesses – would have been forced to vacate Cheshire Bridge by 2018.
Wan described his legislation as “critical” to residential neighborhoods around Cheshire Bridge and other businesses on the street that he alleged had been intimidated to not speak out in favor of the ordinance to close the businesses. “There is a 14 percent vacancy rate along Cheshire Bridge and declining property values,” Wan said.
Councilman C.T. Martin said he couldn’t support the legislation, commenting that it’s “not fair to put a business out of business” without enough information on the impact the ordinance would have elsewhere. “I’m not sure it solves the problem for this one neighborhood without causing problems for another,” Martin said.
Senior Assistant City Attorney Jeff Haymore said that with the exception of Districts 5 and 10, there were parcels of property where these adult businesses could locate. City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, who led the fight to clean up prostitution along Metropolitan Parkway, also said she couldn’t support the legislation. “Where will these businesses go – Fulton Industrial?” Sheperd asked, referring to the west Atlanta industrial thoroughfare that is home to many adult businesses.
Cheers erupted from the packed gallery after the vote, including the business owners, workers and patrons. Before the vote, Aubrey Villanes, attorney for the Onyx strip club, said the business he represented and the other businesses threatened along Cheshire Bridge were part of the fabric of Atlanta and brought tourism dollars. Villanes said more than 200,000 patrons visited Onyx alone last year.
In a statement to the media after the vote, Wan said: “Obviously I am disappointed in today’s vote. The two rezoning papers I introduced would have made it easier for the residents, businesses and other stakeholders along Cheshire Bridge Road to further revitalize the business corridor. The changes would have allowed for businesses more compatible with the needs of the community, and restrict those that are incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods. I would like to thank residents, business owners and city staff for their engagement. As we move forward, I remain committed to continue working with all stakeholders to improve Cheshire Bridge Road.”