Rebecca Chase Williams

Maybe you have seen the ads from the Pink Pony strip club calling on the city council to “Leave the Pink Pony alone.” I wish it were as simple as that.

When we were elected, the councilmembers were asked if we wanted to limit the negative secondary effects of strip clubs and other sexually-oriented businesses that operate, or could locate, in Brookhaven. We all said “yes.”

It is both a proven fact and common knowledge that such businesses hurt property values, discourage other family-oriented businesses, and often bring blight, crime, drugs and prostitution to communities. Court after court has recognized these negative secondary effects.

So the city council passed an updated ordinance regulating sexually-oriented businesses that is similar to—but more defensible than—the one we inherited from DeKalb County, and exactly like the ones passed by several cities around us.

The only difference between Brookhaven and DeKalb County is that our elected officials are not willing to have the city accept cash payments from strip clubs in exchange for the special privilege of ignoring the law. The Pink Pony was party to such a deal with DeKalb County, and claimed that Brookhaven was bound by the settlement agreement they entered with the county years before Brookhaven became a city.

Our attorneys advised us that the settlement agreement was unenforceable against the city and, more important, that the constitutional guarantee of equal protection requires the city to treat similar situations similarly—in other words, you cannot cut a special deal with one strip club without giving the same pass to other sexually-oriented businesses.

Being advised that the settlement was possibly illegal and could invite more litigation, we did not agree to such a settlement. After all, we were elected to uphold the law and the Constitution. The DeKalb County Superior Court agreed with us that DeKalb County’s deal with the strip clubs, including Pink Pony, does not bind the city of Brookhaven.

The Pink Pony and a vocal group of citizens have done a good job of clouding the issue. Our ordinance does not force the Pink Pony to close. It requires that it complies with the same regulations that clubs in many cities in Georgia and across the country have to follow. But those clubs are still in business, and the erotic dancing continues, subject only to regulations that the courts have found to be reasonable measures to address the crime and other secondary effects of the sexually-oriented business industry.

The courts have ruled that strip clubs and X-rated businesses cannot be banned or even zoned out. They have First Amendment free speech protection, and the city’s ordinances have been careful to follow the court precedents on this issue. In fact, the city has had to designate parcels in Brookhaven where such businesses can operate—on Peachtree, Apple Valley and Buford Highway. Being a small, densely-populated city, the buffers from homes, churches and schools had to be reduced to 300 feet to meet legal muster.

So we are back to the question of how do you limit the negative secondary effects of X-rated businesses? You pass an up-to-date, legally-enforceable ordinance to control the time, place and manner of how such businesses operate. The Pink Pony challenged our ordinance, claiming it was unconstitutional. In December, the DeKalb County Superior Court dismissed all 15 counts against the city, concluding that the Pink Pony’s arguments had no legal merit.

It was a resounding victory for the city. The strip club has appealed to the Supreme Court, but we are optimistic for a similar result there.

Can we “leave the Pink Pony alone” in the sense of not requiring them to follow the law? Even if they up the offer to $200,000 a year?

Not a single attorney, and we’ve now consulted six of them, has been able to suggest a “settlement” at any price that gives only the Pink Pony a special deal that would be legally valid. The Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection requires that you treat all similar businesses the same way; you cannot let some businesses violate the law but not others.

It is offensive to be accused of fighting our own citizens. I’m quite convinced that our citizens want laws that stand up in court, abide by the Constitution and protect our quality of life.

Rebecca Chase Williams represents District 1 on Brookhaven City Council.

5 replies on “Pink Pony’s arguments have no legal merit”

  1. Ms. Williams entire argument is based on the following:
    “It is both a proven fact and common knowledge that such businesses hurt property values, discourage other family-oriented businesses, and often bring blight, crime, drugs and prostitution to communities. Court after court has recognized these negative secondary effects.”

    Whether this is a “proven fact” or not sounds doubtful. But in actual fact, there is zero evidence that the Pink Pony has had any negative affect in the community. Business after business next to the Pink Pony has opened. It been shown over and over that various negative affects she poses haven’t happened.
    As for the legally of the arrangement, it has been legal for years. The GA code and constitution doesn’t allow for an ordnance or law to be interpreted differently across the state. That is established law.

    She then comes down to the apparent distaste from the city counsel in accepting the cash. That is simply the “feelings’ on a few far conservatives on the council. That has nothing to do with government administration.

    I am concerned (and the evidence is there, that the few are attempting to inflict there religious/moralistic viewpoints on the many. I have never been or do I intend ongoing to the Pink Pony. What I object to is spending hard earned taxes on a folly such as this.

    Let’s just say you are successful. What ave you accomplished? Nothing more than wasting tax dollars. Do you really think you can change people’s morals? Are you going to now set up a city morals department now? My gosh there must be many things out there you don’t appoint of.

    There is simply no justification for wasting the money that has been spent on this non issue. I can tell you for one, I will noir vote for anyone who has supported this ridiculous waste of time.

  2. Ms.Williams you are elected by the people and the people have spoken with 75% of the residents say “leave the pony alone”!If Brookhaven politicians don’t want the licensing fee then don’t charge the pony one, no other business pay a outrages fee !Your reference to secondary affects is a joke we all no there is none !Bottom line like a lot of elected officials your using your position to cast your own beliefs,values and morals ,we are all grown ups and its are decision to pull into the pony or drive by “not yours”Regulating a business out of business after 23 years is just wrong!There is no public out cry ,this is elected politicians with there own personal agendas !

  3. “When we were elected, the council members were asked if we wanted to limit the negative secondary effects of strip clubs and other sexually-oriented businesses that operate, or could locate, in Brookhaven. We all said “yes.”” – Rebecca Chase Williams
    Comment: “Nothing to see here, it seems. No agency could find any record of a violation.
    We rate this statement True.” – Politifact Monday, May 13th, 2013 in an interview
    http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2013/jun/14/pink-pony/how-well-has-pink-pony-behaved/
    “It is both a proven fact and common knowledge that such businesses hurt property values, discourage other family-oriented businesses, and often bring blight, crime, drugs and prostitution to communities. Court after court has recognized these negative secondary effects.” – Rebecca Chase Williams

    Comment: If the Pink Pony has such negative secondary effects why are property values continually rising?
    “Our attorneys advised us that the settlement agreement was unenforceable against the city and, more important, that the constitutional guarantee of equal protection requires the city to treat similar situations similarly—in other words, you cannot cut a special deal with one strip club without giving the same pass to other sexually-oriented businesses.”- Rebecca Chase Williams
    Comment: As a person who has read and reviewed the ordinance you have currently approved (that was provided by Scott Bergthold), I can tell you that the ordinance was written for a bookstore and then slightly modified for other uses by changing some words such as “Cabaret” (which the Pink Pony is not). This ordinance can be changed very simply by deleting a few lines and wording them differently and replacing them in the ordinance. If your 6 lawyers don’t know how to do that I can show them. If you want to treat all situations similarly and provide equal protection then you must apply the same restrictions to all businesses that serve alcohol.
    “The Pink Pony and a vocal group of citizens have done a good job of clouding the issue. Our ordinance does not force the Pink Pony to close. It requires that it complies with the same regulations that clubs in many cities in Georgia and across the country have to follow. But those clubs are still in business, and the erotic dancing continues, subject only to regulations that the courts have found to be reasonable measures to address the crime and other secondary effects of the sexually-oriented business industry.” – Rebecca Chase Williams
    The “vocal group of residents” are the people you are obligated to represent and they were not clouding the issue. What they are saying is to leave the Pink Pony the way it is. I believe the citizen’s response was plain and clear.
    Thanks to the Brookhaven Reporter Newspaper I can tell what crime happened in Brookhaven through February 26, 2014:
    Posted by Reporter Newspapers on March 11, 2014.
    Brookhaven Police Blotter – dated through Feb. 26
    From police reports dated through Feb. 26.
    The following information was pulled from Brookhaven’s Police-to-Citizen Portal Event Search website and is presumed to be accurate.
    Burglary
    4200 block of Peachtree Road – A burglary to a non-residence, without using forced entry, was reported on Feb. 13.
    100 block of Town Boulevard – A burglary to a non-residence, without using forced entry, was reported on Feb. 15.
    1600 block of Briarwood Road – A burglary to a residence, using forced entry, was reported on Feb. 21.
    7100 block of Brixworth Place – A burglary to a residence, using forced entry, was reported on Feb. 21.
    3400 block of Buford Highway – A burglary to a residence, using forced entry, was reported on Feb. 24.
    1400 block of N. Cliff Valley Way – A burglary to a residence, using forced entry, was reported on Feb. 26.
    3500 block of Buford Highway – A burglary to a residence, using forced entry, was reported on Feb. 26.
    Robbery
    3500 block of Buford Highway – A robbery in the street using a gun was reported on Feb. 16.
    Auto Theft
    3000 block of Buford Highway – Theft of other vehicles was reported on Feb. 17.
    3500 block of Buford Highway – Theft of an auto was reported on Feb. 18.
    1900 block of N. Druid Hills Road – Theft of an auto was reported on Feb. 19.
    600 block of Lincoln Court Avenue – Theft of an auto was reported on Feb. 21.
    1700 block of Briarwood Road – A carjacking was reported on Feb. 22.
    2200 block of Gables Drive – Theft of an auto was reported on Feb. 22.
    2000 block of Druid Hills Reserve Drive – Theft of an auto was reported on Feb. 24.
    Theft/Larceny
    4300 block of Peachtree Road – Theft was reported on Feb. 14.
    4200 block of Peachtree Road – Theft was reported on Feb. 16.
    2700 block of Buford Highway – Theft was reported on Feb. 17.
    3500 block of Buford Highway – Theft was reported on Feb. 17.
    2900 block of Buford Highway – Shoplifting was reported on Feb. 17.
    3400 block of Ashford Dunwoody Road – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 17.
    3200 block of Buford Highway/N. Cliff Valley Way – Theft by receiving stolen property was reported on Feb. 18.
    700 block of Brookhaven Avenue – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 20.
    3600 block of Ashford Dunwoody Road – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 21.
    2600 block of Peachtree Road – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 21.
    1000 block of Standard Drive – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 21.
    2000 block of Burton Plaza Lane – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 21.
    1300 block of N. Druid Hills Road – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 22.
    1100 block of Town Boulevard – Theft was reported on Feb. 22.
    2100 block of Coosawattee Drive – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 24.
    2600 block of Ashford Road – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 24.
    3800 block of Buford Highway – Theft by receiving a stolen vehicle was reported on Feb. 24.
    2000 block of Druid Hills Reserve Drive – A larceny of articles from a vehicle was reported on Feb. 25.
    Assault
    1400 block of Northeast Expressway – Simple battery was reported on Feb. 14.
    3000 block of Buford Highway – Battery was reported on Feb. 15; simple assault was reported on Feb. 25.
    3000 block of Clairmont Road – Simple battery was reported on Feb. 15.
    1300 block of Briarwood Road – Battery was reported on Feb. 20.
    2000 block of Burton Plaza Lane – Battery was reported on Feb. 22.
    3500 block of Buford Highway – Simple battery was reported on Feb. 25.
    Fraud
    2900 block of Common Circle – Fraud was reported on Feb. 15.
    3500 block of Buford Highway/Afton Lane – Fraud was reported on Feb. 18.
    2700 block of Buford Highway – Financial identity fraud was reported on Feb. 18.
    3000 block of Buford Highway – Check forgery was reported on Feb. 24.
    3800 block of Peachtree Road – Financial identity fraud was reported on Feb. 24.
    3300 block of Clairmont Road – Counterfeiting was reported on Feb. 25.
    Other
    1800 block of Skyland Road – A runaway juvenile was reported on Feb. 13.
    2900 block of Clairmont Road – Property damage to a business was reported on Feb. 14.
    3900 block of Peachtree Road – Criminal trespass was reported on Feb. 14.
    4000 block of Peachtree Road/Brookhaven Drive – A suicide threat was reported on Feb. 15.
    1800 block of Corporate Boulevard/Buford Highway – Disorderly conduct was reported on Feb. 16.
    700 block of Town Boulevard – A sex offense was reported on Feb. 16.
    3400 block of Buford Highway – A death investigation was reported on Feb. 16.
    1400 block of Briarwood Road – Criminal trespass was reported on Feb. 18.
    2000 block of N. Druid Hills Road – Disorderly conduct was reported on Feb. 19.
    6200 block of Brixworth Place – A public peace offense was reported on Feb. 22.
    1300 block of Keys Lake Drive – Harassing communications were reported on Feb. 22.
    4600 block of Peachtree Road/Redding Road – Terroristic threats were reported on Feb. 22.
    3300 block of Buford Highway/Briarwood Road – A public peace offense was reported on Feb. 22; a public peace offense was reported on Feb. 24.
    4000 block of Summit Boulevard – Damage to business property was reported on Feb. 22.
    1800 block of Corporate Boulevard – A public peace offense was reported on Feb. 23.
    3800 block of Buford Highway – Criminal trespass was reported on Feb. 23.
    3000 block of Buford Highway/Corporate Boulevard – A public peace offense was reported on Feb. 24.
    3000 block of Clairmont Road – Damage to business property was reported on Feb. 25.
    Comment: It looks as though you have a few other areas to worry about. Why so much emphasis on the Pink Pony when all this “real” crime is happening elsewhere, unless it’s a “Moral Crusade”.
    “Not a single attorney, and we’ve now consulted six of them, has been able to suggest a “settlement” at any price that gives only the Pink Pony a special deal that would be legally valid. The Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection requires that you treat all similar businesses the same way; you cannot let some businesses violate the law but not others.” – Rebecca Chase Williams
    Comment: There are only a few parts of the ordinance that need to be changed in order to make it work. Any competent attorney would know how to do this.
    “It is offensive to be accused of fighting our own citizens. I’m quite convinced that our citizens want laws that stand up in court, abide by the Constitution and protect our quality of life.” – Rebecca Chase Williams
    Comment: It’s offensive that you are NOT listening to the citizens!
    I’m convinced that the citizens want laws that stand up in court also and that’s an easy fix.
    All that’s needed is to change a few words and remove a few others.
    Your quality of life is not being affected by the Pink Pony, but is being affected by the crime that is going on elsewhere in your city.

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