In front of a packed house of Pink Pony employees and supporters, the Brookhaven City Council on Nov. 4 agreed to a settlement deal with the strip club that will allow the business to continue offering nude dancing and alcohol during a six-year “transition” period to come into compliance with city ordinances.
In exchange, the Pink Pony will pay the police department $225,000 a year for the six years to cover public safety costs, reimburse the city for its legal fees, donate land near the club along Peachtree Creek for a city park, and contribute up to $75,000 for that park. The agreement along with a statement from the city can be found on the city’s website here.
“I think we should leave the Pony alone, leave it as is and we’ll all get along fine,” longtime Brookhaven resident Richard Wellmaker told the council. He said he once worked for the club as a floor manager. He pointed out that the Pink Pony holds charity golf tournaments and hosts a Toys for Tots drive every Christmas.
Brookhaven resident William Dunn told the council that he was a regular visitor to the Pink Pony and that he didn’t like that the government was interfering with his life.
“I started going to the Pony not long after it opened in the early 90s and have been a regular day shift customer since,” Dunn said. “This may not be what you consider mainstream but this is the way I live my life and I feel free to live it here in DeKalb County. When the city of Brookhaven began to be talked about I didn’t think it would apply to me down near the intersection of North Druid Hills and Buford Highway. . . . Imagine my surprise when the first thing the city council does is start working to close down my local bar. I feel like you drew a line around me and my bar to pull me into your city and then want to close it down.”
Hours before he was elected as Brookhaven’s District 2 City Council representative, John Park asked the council to delay the vote until that district had representation.
On Nov. 3 the Georgia Supreme Court denied a request for reconsideration that representatives for the Pink Pony submitted following the court’s Oct. 6 ruling that the city of Brookhaven can regulate the strip club.
The Georgia Supreme Court on Oct. 6 had ruled that the city can regulate sexually oriented businesses. Then, on Oct. 8, the city filed a request for a court order that would require the Pink Pony to obey a city ordinance that says sexually-oriented businesses cannot serve alcohol. On Oct. 28, the council voted in favor of a non-disclosure agreement that would allow the city to negotiate a settlement deal with the club, despite the objections of Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams.
“I’m still opposed to it and consider it a bad and unethical deal for the city,” said Williams as she read from a statement during the meeting. “And yes, I still consider it a payoff for looking the other way.” Williams was the council’s lone dissenter on the agreement.
Councilman Bates Mattison, who made the motion to approve the deal, said that it worked in favor of the taxpayers since the city will recoup its legal fees.
Councilman Joe Gebbia said that respect must be paid to any business that existed in Brookhaven before the city incorporated.
Mayor J. Max Davis said the new ordinance will work to prevent more strip clubs from operating in the city and that is why it was adopted, “not to go after the Pink Pony.” This agreement lets the city keep the new ordinance while allowing the Pink Pony to continue to operate, he said.
Aubrey Villines, a lawyer for the club, thanked the council for keeping the Pink Pony open for now. “I think you’ve made an intelligent choice to compromise, and like all compromises we’re not totally happy. There are things in that agreement that we wish were not in there. There are things not in that agreement that we wish were there,” he said. “We want to continue to be the good neighbor that we’ve been for 22 years. . . . Don’t be a stranger, come see us.”