Brookhaven residents, dissatisfied with the city’s legal battle with the Pink Pony strip club, aired their grievances during a round table discussion with Mayor J. Max Davis and Councilman Joe Gebbia Oct. 17.
The results of a telephone poll, commissioned by a group of individuals and neighborhood associations, showed that 75 percent of those polled wanted the city to settle its lawsuit with the Pink Pony, and 62 percent felt the city’s actions did not represent the will of the people.
Residents lobbed their questions and criticisms at the city officials, who for months have been advised not to talk about the lawsuit.
“This is not so much about the Pink Pony but the will of the people,” said Kerry Witt, president of the Pine Hills Homeowners Association and an organizer of the poll. “We’re just trying to convey to the city that the will of the people is just as important as what they think is right for the city.”
Earlier this year, the Pink Pony strip club sued the city of Brookhaven over its sexually oriented business ordinance, which bans nude dancing and alcohol. City officials say DeKalb’s law is unconstitutional and a stronger ordinance is necessary to protect the city. But the owners of the club say the law would put them out of business.
Currently, the owners of the Pink Pony pay DeKalb County a $100,000 annual licensing fee as part of a settlement from a previous lawsuit.
Davis asked the group for a show of hands to see who would feel comfortable with the city collecting that fee from the Pink Pony in exchange for ignoring the law. All hands shot up, and some even suggested the city should ask for more.
“We in the city need these tax dollars. I want to see 15 more squad cars,” said Ashford Park resident Ronnie Mayer. “Use that tax money for good.”
Many aired their suspicions about Scott Bergthold, the Tennessee attorney who was hired to help draft the sexually oriented business ordinance. Bergthold has written and defended laws that regulate adult businesses around the country.
One woman asked the city officials to seek the advice of other attorneys who don’t have a religious or political agenda against the adult business industry.
Residents also disputed the city’s claims of secondary effects caused by sexually oriented businesses.
A Pine Hills resident who said he lives “a stone’s throw” from the Pink Pony said he has never had any problems associated with the club.
Kathy Forbes, a Brookhaven Fields resident who organized the event, listed off a number of new businesses near the club to dispute claims that the Pink Pony will discourage economic development.
“We just don’t buy it. They’ve been good neighbors and there’s a lot of business coming in,” Forbes said.
Davis said City Council felt it was their duty to shore up the regulations for adult businesses. He said clubs that serve alcohol and allow nude dancing can bring down property values and have shown to be associated with other crimes.
“It’s not because we’re moralists,” Davis said. “It’s not because we’re on a crusade to shut down strip clubs.”